They are your neighbour, your family member, colleague or your friend.
They are one of thousands of Canadians affected by suicide every single day.
They are courageous, brave, and strong.
They are suicide attempt survivors — and they have something they want you to know.
How to Support a Suicide Attempt Survivor
Supporting a suicide attempt survivor can be scary. When you know that someone has been pushed to the edge before, you might wonder what’s stopping him or her from doing it again. The truth is, your support can play a role in steering attempt survivors down the road to healing and keeping them on the right track.
The first thing you need to remember is that these survivors have fought their way back through the darkness and, in this moment, are making the choice to live. Honour that choice by acknowledging that they want to be here and realize that what they’re doing by talking about it, is finally giving themselves permission to ask for help.
If you know someone who is at risk of suicide
Talk openly about suicide.
Suicide is NOT a bad word. It’s not gross. It’s not shameful.
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 on Everyday Feminism: “When we don’t have healthy, compassionate conversations about suicide and survival, we ultimately discourage survivors from seeking out support.”
According to former CASP 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.
Listen to what is being said.
Don’t feel as if you have to offer solutions or dissect the reason behind an attempt -- that’s where professional help comes in. An attempt survivor shared with LiveThroughThis.org that during her most trying times, lots of people would say things like: “What do you have to be depressed about?”, to which she responded "Depression doesn’t need a reason — it just is."
Be aware that you may not fully grasp what’s going on in the mind of a suicide attempt survivor, then accept that such awareness is 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.
Shut down 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 judgment. 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.”
Hear From Suicide Attempt Survivors
So, what is the message that suicide attempt survivors need to hear?
“You are worth life. You are worth living. You are worth breathing. You are worth having children. You are worth going to college. You are worth telling jokes. You are worth writing poems. You are worth your life. You have a right to live.”
Hear more about life after a suicide attempt from the suicide survivors featured in these selected videos: