ARTICLES, I NEED HELP: TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION
What to Say (and Not Say) to Someone Who Has Attempted Suicide
When someone you care about attempts suicide, the news can rock you to your core.
And then the emotions come rushing in like a tidal wave.
You’re thankful that your friend is still here, but completely shaken by how close you came to losing him or her. You almost can’t help your emotions as they gush out in the form of words.
But it’s important that you practice some restraint.
Because this is a very delicate time in your loved one’s life, and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Now is the time to take a deep breath. You’re in the right place.
Here are some ideas for what to say (and what not to) when someone has attempted suicide.
Let’s start with some words of encouragement:
I love you
These are simple words that you may have said a thousand times before. But in a time like this, don’t let those words go unspoken. This one is for your sake as much as it is for your friends. But you should know that now, more than ever, they need your love and support. Give it freely.
I’m sorry things got so bad for you
When someone attempts suicide, oftentimes, others will try to minimize the struggle with platitudes that simply aren’t helpful. And it’s easier to fall into that camp than you may think. Instead, express your sympathy in a way that’s supportive. Acknowledge that he or she must have felt like suicide was the only option (because no one actually wants to feel this way). Acknowledge the very real pain that brought your friend to this point.
I’m here for you
Now is a good time to remind your friend that you’re there for him or her. You may invite your friend to call or text at any time, and be there to talk. You don’t have to understand the struggle or the suicide attempt. You only have to be there to listen.
But don’t stop reading with the words of encouragement. What not to say is just as important as what to say to a friend who attempted suicide.
Here’s what not to say to someone who has attempted suicide:
I understand what you’re going through
Even if you’ve had suicidal thoughts or made an attempt yourself, you don’t know what this person is going through. Everyone’s struggle is unique, and you run the risk of trivializing their feelings this way.
When you say something like this, what you’re really trying to communicate is that your friend isn’t alone. So, try approaching it from that perspective. Instead of trying to relate to your friend’s very personal experience, spend time telling him or her that you’re there for the long haul and whatever it takes.
Why didn’t you get help sooner?
You may be feeling this question on a deep level – because you’re also filled with many emotions right now. But be very careful about actually saying something like this. This falls into the category of victim blaming, and it’s counterproductive. Remember that your friend is at a low point, and now is not the time to suggest they’ve done something wrong.
Suicide is so selfish
This is something else people say that blames the person who attempted suicide. Again, it’s not productive right now. Your main goal should be to lift your friend’s spirits instead of breaking them down. Think of this time as depression management, and avoid saying anything that could potentially worsen your friend’s depression.
When you get to talk to a friend who has attempted suicide, remember that this is an extremely fragile time. Before you say anything, think about whether it will benefit your friend. In cases like these, you may find that the words you really want to speak are for your own benefit. And while your feelings are important too, this time is for your friend.
Article written by Trevor McDonald