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How to engage with someone who has attempted suicide

Discovering that someone you care about has attempted suicide can be a devastating experience. You may initially experience emotions such as shock and denial. Sometimes, those close to the suicidal person blame themselves for what has happened, thinking, for example, “if only I’d watched them more closely”. The fact that someone close to you or a loved one has attempted suicide is not your fault. And while it may be distressing and confusing to know that someone close to you has attempted to take their life. Here are 9 ways to help the recovery process.

1. Get medical help immediately

When you find that someone has made an attempt to take their life, call an ambulance or rush them to a hospital immediately. Ensuring that their life is out of danger is of primary importance.

2. Don’t judge, get angry or ask too many questions

A person who has attempted to take their life is already in a very troubled and confused state of mind. Avoid judging them, showing anger or disgust. They need your support and may not be ready to discuss the event.

3. Give them verbal assurance of your support

A person who has attempted suicide needs your support. Stay with them during this difficult time and verbally assure them that they are safe and have your unconditional support.

4. Keep an eye out without being intrusive

If you assess that they still seem to be at the risk of suicide, try not to leave them unattended. You can care for them without intruding on their space.

5. Encourage them to talk to a therapist

Once out of medical danger, gently introduce the idea of seeking mental health help. You can locate a counsellor, psychologist or a psychiatrist here.

6. Help them compile a list of people they can talk to

Help them create a list of people they can talk to when they feel vulnerable or hopeless. This list can include family and friends that they trust and also a counsellor who may be willing to be on call in case of emergency. They can also opt to call mental health/ suicide helplines here.

7. Engage them in other activities

An attempt at taking one’s life should not define a person or their life. Help them move on by nudging them into a healthy daily routine that includes work, family, friends, exercise, etc.

8. Talk to a trained counsellor yourself

If you find yourself troubled and overwhelmed by the chain of events, take a break or fix a meeting with a therapist to talk it out.

9. Try not to analyse how you could have prevented the act.

There’s a good chance that you might feel guilty or speculate how you could have stopped your friend/relative from attempting to take their life. Talk to someone you trust to unburden yourself.

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The Live Love Laugh Foundation ("TLLLF") is not in the business of providing counselling services and does not own, operate or control the helpline numbers listed on the website. The helpline numbers are listed for referral purposes only, and TLLLF does not make any recommendations or guarantees regarding the quality of response and medical advice you might receive from any of the helplines. TLLLF does not endorse these helplines and makes no representations, warranties or guarantees as to, and assumes no responsibility for, the services provided by these entities. TLLLF disclaims all liability for damages of any kind arising out of calls made to these helpline numbers.