This information has been put together from the insight and wisdom of people who have experienced suicide attempts. It contains information for your support network, friends and family.
You are not alone – you can get through this
Life after a suicide attempt is a confusing time, ones that will needs time and patience. Getting your life back to feeling worthwhile and meaningful is possible with the right support. You may not have the answers right now, but in time, you can recover emotionally and physically.
If you have just attempted suicide, it is important to see a doctor, even if you think you feel OK. It is important even if the attempt does not appear life threatening.
If you have gone to hospital, the environment can be overwhelming, but your mental health is just as important. Medical staff will look for signs of any physical injuries first. You should then be seen by a member of the mental health team, who may offer you an assessment. This will be an opportunity for you to talk about what happened and what led to your suicide attempt. The mental health worker will use this information to assess your needs going forward. They may make an appointment to see you again over the next few days and put you in touch with the community mental health team.
Regardless of what they offer, in Northamptonshire you can access any of the Crisis Cafes, for same day support while plans are put into action. Talking over your experience will help the healing process. It is worthwhile making an appointment to see your regular GP who can set up some regular checks, discuss medication if appropriate and monitor how you are coping and if you have the support you need in place.
With the right support in place you should be able to go home. If you do not feel safe to return home, say so, and ask what other options are available. It can be helpful to write this information down so that you can refer to it again later. Often it can be hard to remember things when you are tired or stressed.
Before you head home make sure you understand:
- What you can do to make it easier to get through the next few days.
- What supports are available and useful to you when you return home.
- What you should do if you feel suicidal again.
- Names and contact details for counselling or other support services.
- Names and contact details for emergency services.
Health professionals are individuals, and equally their responses may differ from one to another; what is important if that you feel you can talk openly about your problems, and understand the options the mental health team can offer you.
If you do not feel safe, please ask what other help they can offer.
The first few days after a suicide attempt are important, many questions will arise, and they may not always have answers. There are things that you can do to help yourself, including making your own crisis safety plan. You may wish to address such questions such as,
What happened, and how did you reach the point of your suicide attempt?
How can you stay safe, what steps can you take to take back control?
In setting yourself on a path to recovery it can be useful to have these reminders:
- Let other people support you.
- Stay with a friend or family or invite them to stay at yours, if you live alone.
- Be open minded to the advice of the professionals, keep appointment and take the medication they prescribe.
- Routine is important, try to have the same waking time, mealtimes and bedtime.
- Remove objects that you could harm yourself with, avoid the use of alcohol and drugs.
- Respond to people in your support network, if you are not yet ready to talk, acknowledge their offer and let them know you will talk when you’re feeling ready.
- Surround yourself with people who you trust, who will listen to you without judgment and who you enjoy being with.
- Different people can offer different support, some are good listeners, other are practical. There is room for a whole range of people in your support network but make sure you identify at least one person you feel that you can talk with about how you are feeling.
- Have the numbers of helplines, Samaritans etc in your contacts.
Talking to others about your suicide attempt is very personal. It’s normal to feel a little unsure and worried about what others might think. Try not to be pressured into talking before you are ready but use the time to think about how you may respond and talk to those you trust. Often a short response such as “Things have been really difficult for me lately and I attempted suicide. I just wanted to let you know what I have been dealing with and that I am trying to get back on track”
It can be useful to plan an agreement with your confidents about what can be shared, but also to dispel gossip. It’s OK to be clear about what you need from others, whether it’s time to be listened to, or when you would like to talk about something other than your suicide attempt.
A counsellor can help to address the feelings or situations that led up to your suicide attempt. You can talk openly about what has happened and find new ways to cope with difficult decisions, experiences or emotions.
You might find therapy sessions with a counsellor helpful to :
- Sort through how you are feeling and why
- Provide a different perspective
- Help develop new coping strategies.
It is also important to understand what counselling is, what it isn’t, and what can you expect from a professional counsellor.
Counselling is about empowering clients, focusing on emotions, feelings, thoughts, behaviours, experiences and working towards a positive change. It is a therapeutic relationship that’s developed from trusting the process, being honest and open and recognising and accepting that everyone is individual and as such, so are the issues worries and concerns. It isn’t about giving advice, being judgemental or fixing problems. There are times during the counselling journey where you may feel a range of emotions……i.e. distressed or elated…happier. It is in your best interest to work through these feelings in therapy, which is why the therapeutic relationship remains professional.
There are several ways to access counselling. We always recommend that when seeking support related to suicide, your counsellor has undertaken specialist training. All counsellors at We Mind & Kelly Matters have extensive experience and have been thoroughly checked for qualifications and suitability.
When seeking a private counsellor always check their credentials. There are several governing bodies that offer qualified counsellors’ membership, to ensure that whoever you choose to work with abides by an ethical framework. These include but are not limited to British Association of Counselling Profession (BACP), and UK Council for Psychotherapy
We Mind & Kelly Matters will be happy to recommend psychotherapists and counsellors..
Meanwhile please check these sites for other qualified counsellors.
You can direct yourself for NHS Changing Minds IAPT counselling free of charge
Changing Mind IAPT services support people over the age of 17 and a half and living in Northamptonshire who are feeling stressed, low in mood or have mild to moderate depression and/or an anxiety disorder. The service will work with you to put a plan in place. This may include being offered a group, computerised cognitive behavioural therapy, online wellbeing groups or face to face support. Therapeutic work takes place in GP surgeries and other suitable facilities throughout the county and they sometimes run workshops and webinars out of hours or during the weekend. Access the service by calling 0300 999 1616 (9 to 5 weekdays) or by filling in the online form IAPT Self Referral Form
Professional help from your mental health team / GP
You may be prescribed medication to treat an underlying mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. It is important you understand how the medication works as often they take time to take effect, up to 3 weeks, and some may make your feel worse before they can help you feel better.
Keep your doctor’s appointment so you can review your medication, you may have to try different medication to find the right one for you, be patient. If you suffer from side effects, keep a journal and discuss this at your appointments.
Exploring other alternative or complimentary methods is another option. Be mindful to discuss with any practitioners the support you are receiving from other areas, to avoid differences in support.
There is no right or wrong way to feel following a suicide attempt. You might not know why, or even if, you wanted to end your life. You might feel confused by what has happened and these feelings can change quickly and unexpectedly.
You might be feeling exhausted, numb, remorseful or embarrassed. It is common to feel shame or guilt and worried about how your attempt has affected those around you. It is possible you may also feel angry about what has happened and find it hard to see any hope for the future.
Then again, you might be feeling relieved that you have survived but unsure about what happens now. The reasons behind your attempt will become clearer as you work through your thoughts and feelings but understanding why you attempted suicide is an important step in finding your way back.
Some of the reason’s others have given for attempting suicide have included:
- The situation was so unbearable, I couldn’t think of an alternative.
- I felt trapped. There was no other way I could get away.
- I was just so agitated and completely on the edge all the time, I needed to do something.
- I felt overwhelmed and out of control.
- I needed to get help and let others know how desperate I felt.
- I felt like a failure and a burden. I just wanted to make it easier for those around me.
- I don’t know why I did it.
After a suicide attempt, there is no right or wrong way to feel, what we do understand is that attempts are associated with intense psychological pain along with negative feelings that seem endless and impossible to escape from. Stressful life events may be the trigger for these feelings and can include:
- feeling alone, isolated and without any friends or family
- going through a difficult relationship breakup
- losing a job
- experiencing a financial crisis
- being bullied at work or school
- experiencing discrimination and isolation due to sexuality, gender identity, culture or disability
- going to court for legal matters
- experiencing drug and alcohol problems.
And just sometimes there appears to be no obvious life events or experiences that have led to a suicide attempt.
Some mental health conditions and medications will also increase the likelihood of someone experiencing intense out of control thoughts and feelings but attempting suicide does not always mean a person was experiencing a mental health problem. Around 20 % of people attempting suicide have no mental health problems.
Returning to a routine that may include getting back to work is an important sign that you are getting back on track, but it can also be an anxious time. If you don’t have close relationships with the people you work or study with you may not want to talk about what has happened; you might want to keep your personal and work/study life separate but it is important to let someone know so reasonable adjustments can be made and additional support can be provided.
By law, under the Human Rights Act, workplaces and teaching institutions are required to make reasonable adjustments to support people who have been or are unwell. It may be useful to discuss the possibility of a phased return to work, having flexible days. Discuss the need to have time off to attend appointments. Make sure you look at your workload, and ensure you have support with study task, or work deadlines.
If thoughts about suicide return, it’s not a sign you have failed or that you are not recovering, sadly it is not uncommon in the recovery time. Often the hardest time to manage thoughts about suicide or death is in the period immediately after an attempt or after discharge from hospital. It’s important to make sure you have thought about how you will respond if you become suicidal again.
Recovery from a suicide attempt is about building strategies and confidence in managing thoughts about death and suicide if or when they return. Some people find that their suicidal thoughts can return in response to situations of significant stress or tension, so many people find it is useful to prepare a safety plan.
A safety plan is a series of steps that you follow if you start to feel suicidal again. See our Safety Plan Page and template.
Human beings are social animals, so it is important to keep our social connections. Having people around you can protect you against having further suicidal thoughts and easier to manage if they return.
Feeling disconnected from life, and from those around us is a common feeling leading up to a suicide attempt, so in your recovery there is never a better time to reconnect with those people that are important to you. It might be time to find build new friendships and build meaningful relationships, it can also be a time to discover new things that are important to you.
Reflect on what may be necessary lifestyle changes – choosing to live a physically healthier life. Eating a balanced diet, reducing alcohol consumption, exercising a little each day and having a good sleep pattern can all be helpful. Making sure that relaxation is built into your routine; learning new breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can all be good ways to do this.
In the short-term, this could mean:
- catching up regularly with friends and family
- spending time doing things you enjoy
- joining a group for something you have always been interested in.
In the longer-term, this could mean:
- thinking about work and whether it is fulfilling for you, or considering voluntary work
- thinking about study, such as courses at school or university
- taking a holiday to places that you have always wanted to see.
After a suicide attempt it can be hard to see what the future holds. It might help to see this time as a turning point; an opportunity for you to find your way back. You will still have ups and downs. However, by focusing on the potential for change following your darkest times, and accepting the assistance of others, you can create opportunities that offer hope and direction for your future.