An estimated 1.38 million people attempt and survive suicide each year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Surviving an attempt, however, certainly doesn’t mean the struggle is over. What happens in the hours, days, and weeks that follow is crucial.
Suicide attempt survivors need love, empathy, compassion, care, and support. And yet it can be tough for them to find that support. While there are countless resources available for suicide loss survivors, a quick internet search for help for suicide attempt survivors yields few results. (I would know. I am a suicide survivor. I have attempted to take my life twice.)
The good news is there is help and hope. You are not alone.
“Know that recovery is possible,” says Lindsey Israel, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist based in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the chief medical officer and medical director of Success TMS, a depression treatment center. “Things can get better. Be patient with yourself. Relief might take some time.”
Here are some resources you can turn to immediately after a suicide attempt and over the longer term.
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Where to Turn Immediately After a Suicide Attempt
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that suicide attempt survivors visit the emergency department as soon as possible to get treatment for any physical symptoms, emotional support, and to arrange follow-up care and treatment.
“Getting yourself to the nearest emergency room for a safety check and observation is important,” Dr. Israel says.
Emergency room staff will look for physical health problems that may have contributed to suicidal behavior (such as side effects from medications, untreated medical conditions, or substance use), according to SAMHSA. You’ll also undergo a mental health assessment.
On the basis of these evaluations, the clinicians will decide if hospitalization is necessary for continued monitoring or treatment. If it’s not recommended, the ER team should work with you to develop a follow-up treatment plan before sending you home, according to SAMHSA.
Resources for Immediate Support
Your Local Emergency Department
If you or someone you know is considering or has just attempted suicide, call 911 or visit your local emergency department.
This 24/7 service is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 text-based mental health support and crisis intervention services. Message 741-741 to start speaking with a trained crisis counselor.
This mental health organization for LGBTQ+ youth was founded in 1998 to provide crisis intervention for those under age 25. Call the TrevorLifeline at 866-488-7386 for immediate support.
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Where to Get Support in the Days and Weeks After an Attempt
After a suicide attempt, you may be unsure how you feel. I experienced anger, grief, happiness, sadness, joy, shame, and guilt. No matter what you feel, know that it is not bad, it is not wrong, and you are not alone.
Experts say that in the days, hours, and weeks that follow, it's important to acknowledge how you’re feeling and show yourself compassion.
“Be kind to yourself,” says Doreen Marshall, PhD, a psychologist and the vice president of mission engagement for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “You have just survived a life-threatening health crisis. You deserve to take the time you need.”
An underlying mental illness may have contributed to your suicide attempt; or there may be another major stressor or challenge in your life. Coping with these things and finding healthy ways to manage them takes time, according to AFSP.
“Know it may take time to feel better,” Israel says. “It may take time to be thankful or feel relieved.”
It’s also important to take steps to keep yourself safe and do what’s in your power to prevent a future attempt. One of the best ways to do so is to create a suicide safety plan.
“Much as you would know where your emergency exits are in a building, having a safety plan in place helps you know what to do if feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness arise again,” Israel explains. “Write it down and post it on your wall just like an evacuation plan. Having some kind of plan in place gives you some level of certainty.”
Surround yourself with people who care about you and whom you can turn to for help if and when you need it. A strong support system is a key part of recovering from a suicide attempt — and preventing another one, Dr. Marshall says. Turn to family members, a close friend, a member of the clergy, mentor, or trusted colleague. “When you’re ready to connect with friends and family, let them know what happened and that you want them to help you stay safe,” she says.
If suicidal thoughts and ideations are recurring or persistent, you will want to work with a mental health professional to identify both causes and triggers. “Knowing what triggers suicidal thoughts can help you better understand them and help you better see alternative coping strategies,” Israel says.
Resources for Support Days and Weeks Later
SAVE offers peer support services to help you connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
With the help of this nonprofit organization for people who have experienced suicide loss, suicide attempts, and suicidal thoughts or feelings, you can connect with like-minded individuals and peers. The organization holds educational events and publishes educational resources on its website.
NAMI is an education, advocacy, and research organization focused on mental health. The group publishes many resources about suicide prevention and where survivors of suicide attempts can turn for support.
Jed is a nonprofit focused on providing education for teens and young adults on healthy ways to cope with mental and emotional health challenges and prevent suicide. Find resources on managing your own mental health or supporting a friend who is struggling.
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Where to Turn for Ongoing Support After a Suicide Attempt
While the hours, days, and weeks following a suicide attempt are critical for getting help and support, it is important to continue treatment, especially if there is an underlying mental health condition.
“It’s important you see or find a therapist or other mental health professional after an attempt,” Marshall says. If there is an underlying mental health illness, making sure you have an accurate diagnosis and treatment can help, she says. You may be in the midst of stressful life events that you’re struggling to cope with. “A mental-health professional can help you work through these thoughts and develop coping strategies.”
Resources for Ongoing Support
This agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focuses on public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation and to improve the lives of individuals living with mental and substance use disorders and their families. Find psychiatrists, psychologists, and treatment centers across the country via its website, as well as other educational resources.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a nonprofit health organization focused on suicide prevention research, advocacy efforts, and support services for suicide attempt survivors and their loved ones. The organization provides education resources on topics like finding a mental health professional and navigating insurance, and information on connecting with local support and community groups.
This organization of mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center volunteers, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and others who have an interest in suicide prevention was formed to promote understanding and prevention of suicide, as well as to support those who have been affected by it. The organization offers resources for suicide attempt survivors, including videos, a handbook, and information on support groups.
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If you are actively in crisis and need immediate support, call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text 741-741 to reach a trainer counselor with Crisis Text Line.