Survivors of Suicide Attempt
Individuals who have attempted suicide and survived can be at continued risk for suicide. The single strongest indicator of a future suicide attempt is a previous attempt. That is why it is important to develop a safety plan, seek help, and increase contact with someone who has attempted suicide. Someone who has attempted suicide may feel a sense of isolation and be reluctant to share their thoughts and feelings with someone else, especially if they have experienced past crises related to suicide, such as a hospitalization. They may benefit from someone who will listen and validate their feelings without rushing to judgment.
Those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts or have had a previous suicide attempt may have mental health concerns. Depression and other mood disorders are often associated with higher suicide risk, especially if the illness is inadequately treated or untreated. Substance use disorders and childhood trauma are associated with risk for suicide. Anger, loss or family situations can also play a part in why someone may have attempted or be considering suicide.
There are steps to take to help reduce the level of suicide risk for someone who has previously attempted or considered suicide. Assisting them in developing a safety plan that includes practicing safe/no use of alcohol and drugs, identifying and utilizing past and current coping skills and personal resources, strengthening social contacts and informal/formal support systems, as well as recognizing and responding constructively and proactively to triggers or warning signs of distress are all ways that a safety net can be constructed to help support the person.
The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) has a number of resources related to suicide attempt survivors:
- This resource shares personal stories from persons who have attempted suicide and found hope to continue living.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has support resources created through discussions and interviews with attempt survivors.
- Sometimes those whose lives have been touched by suicide wish to help others by sharing their experience. There can be great benefit associated with “telling the story”, but there are some considerations to be kept in mind. Best Practices for Presentations by Suicide Loss and Suicide Attempt Survivors offers some suggestions in this matter.
- AAS recently launched a blog that is updated weekly and many of the posts are from survivors of suicide attempts themselves. What Happens Now? Exploring life after a suicide attempt or suicidal thinking.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes three “After an Attempt” brochures developed by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that are available free of charge. One brochure is for consumers, one is for families, and one is for providers.
The Way Forward: Pathways to hope, recovery and wellness with insights from lived experience. (Prepared by the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention July 2014)