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Department of Psychiatry
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Other common questions

Should I talk to the person about why they made a suicide attempt?

You do not need to avoid talking to the person about why they made the suicide attempt. Talking about a suicide attempt can help a person feel better. You can be honest and let the person know that this topic may be difficult but you want to listen without judgement.

It is important to keep in mind that this discussion may be emotional for you and your loved one. It is important for you to be in the right frame of mind and not be too emotional, especially after the person leaves the hospital.

Being compassionate is a key part of starting the conversation. You should ask permission to speak about the suicide attempt rather than force the conversation. If your loved one is open to talking about the suicide attempt and you are emotionally ready to talk about it, this can be very therapeutic for your loved one and can help support that person.

If they do not want to talk about their suicide attempt, that is also okay. They may need some time to open up. The most important thing is to help ensure that your loved one is being regularly followed by a health professional after their suicide attempt. You are not expected to be your loved one’s mental health professional.

What if my loved one wants to be left alone? Should someone stay with them?

Respect.

Each relationship is different. Respecting your loved one’s individuality and independence is important, and some people are very uncomfortable around others or may be emotionally triggered by them. If possible, try to make sure that your loved one is with someone that they are emotionally comfortable with after leaving the hospital. This is especially important in the beginning since the first few weeks after they leave the hospital is considered a higher risk time period.

During that time, check in each day with your loved one, if it is welcomed by that person.

How do I manage my emotions when interacting with my loved one after an attempt?

It is very common to have changing emotions when you interact with your loved one after a suicide attempt. You may even experience conflicting feelings at the same time: e.g., relief, sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, fear, and other emotions. The first step is to be aware of these feelings and to be compassionate with yourself rather than feeling shame or trying to sweep these feelings 'under the rug' and ignore them. It can be helpful to reach out for support from trusted friends or family and share these feelings in a safe environment. Sometimes personal therapy might help. When you speak with your loved one who has made a suicide attempt, it is important to convey positive emotions of caring, optimism, and concern. If you do not feel you can do this, try to create some safe distance and ask for others to support your loved one while you are working through your own complex feelings.

How can I help reduce the risk of suicide?

Support needs will differ for each individual but the most important thing is to tell the person that you care, that they are valued and that you are available to provide support.

Help your loved one engage in exercise and activities that are pleasant and/or meaningful, or help their efforts in personal development.

You may also consider working together on creating and putting plans into place for how to respond effectively to emotional or suicidal crises, and encourage them to continue treatment for any underlying mental illness. Effective treatment may include lifestyle modification, talk therapy that focuses on teaching skills and enhancing coping strategies, medication, and/or brain stimulation techniques.

Try to restrict the means of the person to take their life (e.g. reducing access to medication, removing firearms etc.). Preventing access to alcohol or substances can help reduce risk, as they can cloud judgement and cause impulsive behaviour.