The reason why supporting suicide attempt survivors can at times seem scary is because these are people who life has pushed them to the extreme edge and uncertainties still exists on whether they may decide to take their lives again. However, in the midst of this uncertainty lies a greater need to establish a support system that can play a leading role in helping attempts survivors to steer down the road to healing and normalcy.
What you need to remember is that suicide attempt survivors are individuals who have laboriously fought their way back from the edge of death and are now making the choice to live. The best support you can give them is by acknowledging they want to be here and they are asking for external support to help them come back to their normal self. Below are a few things to consider when addressing a suicide attempt survivor.
Talk Openly Concerning Suicide
Suicide is not a shameful and bad word. It is something that happens and the reason why you are having the conversion with a suicide attempt survivor is because it happened to them. Being open about suicide is very important as you put in place a support mechanism for the survivors. This open sharing provides a welcoming and honest space where suicide is no longer considered a taboo and makes it easier for the survivors to open up and share their experience and feeling. There is need for compassionate and healthy conversations about suicide so as to encourage survivors to seek support.
One of the most critical factors to bear in mind when supporting suicide attempt survivors is patience. These survivors may have needs that vary with time for instance, at one moment they may want to be surrounded by people and in the next they want to stay alone. In order to manage this transformation in needs, you have to be patient with them. It may sound confusing, but you should note that the survivors are doing the best they can and every moment matters to them. Learn to respect their decisions and always check in to see if they are in need of help. Also, you need to be vigilant for warning signs of suicide especially for vulnerable survivors.
When you are offering support to attempt survivors, you do not have to offer solutions or try to analyze the reason behind the suicide attempt. What these survivors need is unconditional support and not interrogation. You have to accept that you do not fully understand what goes on in the mind of the survivor and accept them the way they are. Just be there and when they choose to open up, be the listening partner. It is by hearing their story that you can gain a deeper understanding of what they have been or they are going through. Each survivor has a different story and there is no formula when it comes to offering them support.
Stop the Stigma
One of the reasons and in fact the biggest challenge suicide attempt survivors face is the stigma they have to wade through as they seek help. When a survivor hears people discussing about him and how selfish it was to attempt taking their life, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to open up.
Survivors need compassion and not judgment. They require support as they navigate through the abyss of shame, stereotypes, guilt, and stigma that surrounds their world. The decision to take one’s life is neither a light one nor an indicator of character flaw, but rather a sign of deep immense pain that the victim has carried for far too long.