Four Things Suicide Attempt Survivors Want You To Know
1) Talk Openly About Suicide
Suicide is NOT a bad word. It’s not gross. It’s not shameful. It is something that happens, and if you’re talking to a suicide attempt survivor, it’s something that happened to them.
The importance of talking openly about suicide is vital in supporting suicide attempt survivors. Providing an honest, and welcoming space where suicide isn’t considered taboo is necessary in order for attempt survivors to comfortably share their feelings and experience. As one survivor of suicide reveals in an article entitled, 7 Ways to Support Suicide Attempt Survivors (published on the Everyday Feminism website in April 2015), “When we don’t have healthy, compassionate conversations about suicide and survival, we ultimately discourage survivors from seeking out support.”
2) Be Patient
According to former CASP (Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention) board member Yvonne Bergmans, one of the most important things to remember when supporting a suicide attempt survivor is patience. Suicide attempt survivors may need different things at different times. They might want to be surrounded by people one day, yet choose to spend the next in total isolation.
It sounds confusing, and remember that they are doing the best they know how to in that very moment, and remind yourself that in the life of a suicide attempt survivor, living moment to moment is a pretty big deal. Respect their decisions and check-in frequently to see if they could use a friend. Also keep an eye out for the warning signs for those at risk of suicide.
3) Listen To What They’re Saying
Don’t feel as if you have to dissect the reason behind an attempt (that’s where professional help comes in), or offer solutions. According to one suicide attempt survivor who shared her story on LiveThroughThis.org, during her most trying times a lot of people would say things like, “What do you have to be depressed about?” to which she responds that depression doesn’t need a reason — it just is.
Accept that you may not fully grasp what’s going on inside the head of a suicide attempt survivor, and accept that that’s okay. You don’t have to understand, you just have to be there if and when they choose to open up about their experience. At that point, be sure to listen to what they’re saying and tune in as they’re telling their story.
4) Shut Down The Stigma
One of the biggest challenges faced by suicide attempt survivors is the stigma they have to face on their way to find help. Telling someone you attempted suicide is hard enough. Hearing that it was selfish to try in the first place certainly doesn’t make it easier to open up.
Survivors of suicide attempts need compassion, not judgement. They need support as they navigate their way through the abyss of stigma, shame, guilt and stereotypes that surrounds suicide. The suicide attempt survivor from Everyday Feminism wants everyone to understand that the decision to end one’s life is not one that is taken lightly and is “not indicative of a character flaw, rather of immense pain that we have carried for too long.”
Article published by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP), January 26, 2016.