National Suicide Prevention Week is almost over, but many people are still unaware of the facts surrounding suicide prevention, especially when a suicide attempt has already been made.
Experts share the top 12 observations about people who attempt suicide but thankfully survive.
Michelle Stevens, a clinical psychologist said in an email that she made three suicide attempts in her earlier years, and eventually became a psychologist as a result of her journey learning about herself.
She shares six points to understand about people with failed suicide attempts:
1) “The first thing to know about suicide is that most people don't want to die.”
2) “Suicidal people are in excruciating emotional pain; they want that pain alleviated.”
3) “To the outside world, a suicidal person's problems may not seem that bad, but this viewpoint doesn't factor in depression. The depressed mind does not think clearly. It makes the depressed person feel overly pessimistic and guilt-ridden, not to mention tired and joyless. In this depressed state, a person has trouble imagining that anything can ever get better. Suicide starts to seem like the only option.”
4) “Let's face it, if a person really wants to kill himself or herself, it's not difficult. There are proven methods. Failed attempts are not really failures; they are generally indicative of the person's indecisiveness.”
5) “If the person receives genuine help after an attempt, it can eventually heal the depression and suicidality. If the person does not get the help and support he or she needs, the failed suicide attempt becomes a rehearsal, a lowering of inhibition.”
6) Sometimes you can do more damage if you attempt to help a person experiencing depression and suicidality without proper training. It is best to help a friend or loved one get the professional help they need (and of course be there to support them). This can include talk therapy, medication and, in some cases, hospitalization.
Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist, shared her three pieces of insight in an email:
7) “Just because a person survives a suicide attempt does not mean they are out of the woods. Many times people are hoping for that ‘see the light’ moment for the person who attempted suicide and all will be well. The most consistent predictor of suicide is past attempts, so an attempt means that mental health services have to be redoubled, supports in place, more intense treatment considered. This is the beginning of a long process.”
8) “On the other side of the continuum, it also does not mean that a person who has attempted suicide should be ‘infantilized.’ It is a process, and assuming they have the proper care and supports in place, treating them as exquisitely fragile is not doing them any favors.”
9) “Calling that person out as ‘selfish,’ etc. is NOT OK. A person who has attempted [suicide] with depression is struggling with numerous thoughts, including feelings of worthlessness, guilt, [and] failure. Society tends to term suicide as ‘selfish’ rather than seeing it in a far more complex context of helplessness, mental health, stress, and history.”
Denee Jordan, a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist, has one major statement she shared via email:
10) “I think what is most important for people to remember is that if you have never felt suicidal, you probably will never completely understand it. In other words, feeling ‘suicidal’ is not a decision people make when they are feeling bad. It is at the end of an emotional continuum that most people do not experience because they naturally do not allow themselves to go beyond the ability to access resources for help.”
Lyn Morris, the vice president of clinical operations at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, provided her insight via email:
11) “Talking to someone about their thoughts of suicide will not put the idea of suicide into their head. Instead, allowing an at-risk person to talk about his or her feelings without judgment or shame often brings comfort and relief. Listening and not trying to fix a suicidal person’s problems can be the best help a friend or family member can offer.”
Amy Baylis, a follow-up crisis line coordinator at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, provided information via email regarding attempted suicide:
12) “Immediately after an attempt, there might still be some medical issues that need to be addressed. Working on the crisis line, I have talked to many people who said they overdosed on medication, woke up a few days later, and never told anyone about it. There can be serious physical damage to the liver or kidneys from an overdose. People who have survived a suicide attempt should seek medical help.”
American Association of Suicidology. National Suicide Prevention Week. Web. September 10, 2014.
Stevens, Michelle. Email interview. September 10, 2014.
Durvasula, Ramani. Email interview. September 9, 2014.
Jordan, Denee. Email interview. September 10, 2014.
Morris, Lyn. Email interview. September 9, 2014.
Baylis, Amy. Email interview. September 9, 2014.
Reviewed September 12, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith