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Recovering from a suicide attempt

Following a suicide attempt, you may have conflicting feelings about your experience. It may be that you feel ashamed, confused, relieved, disappointed, or angry that you need help. 

A common experience for people after a suicide attempt is lethargy and physical fatigue. The suicide attempt, reactions from others and the experience in the emergency department may all be overwhelming you right now. 

It may be helpful to remember that while all these feelings are probably very intense for you right now, they will pass and a return to normal life is possible. 

Reasons for living

People who have been through this experience may find that it is helpful to reflect on their reasons to live. It may be your family, children, friends or even a beloved pet that are your most important reasons for living. Perhaps it’s a passion or interest that is meaningful to you. While reflecting, you may want to write these thoughts down and keep them for future reference in case you are feeling suicidal in the future, or if you just want a reminder of all the things that make your life worth living.

Support after a suicide attempt

Suicide is still a delicate subject and is largely misunderstood. The stigma surrounding suicide might cause you to worry about what other people are thinking. Remember that it is your choice who you talk with about what you are experiencing. It is important to be kind to yourself and surround yourself with trusted and supportive people. Building a strong support network is a key stage in recovering from a suicide attempt and keeping safe in the future. It is helpful to have at least one person you can talk to about your feelings, especially if you start to have suicidal thoughts again.

Following a suicide attempt, it is likely that you have been referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. It is important to call on this network of support to help you move through this difficult time, and deal with the problems that brought you to this point. 

Managing suicidal thoughts 

Recovering from suicidal feelings is possible. You can learn how to manage these thoughts in the future to keep yourself safe, or you may get to a place where you no longer have these thoughts at all. Other people have recovered from suicide attempts and you can too. Remember that even if you feel like you are alone, there are people who can help you.

Here are some ideas that can be put in place now to keep you safe in the future:

Make a suicide safety plan

Work with your counsellor or doctor to create a plan that you can follow should the suicidal thoughts come back. It is important to be as honest as you can to ensure you are comfortable with your plan and it meets your needs. To get some tips on creating and implementing a safety plan, see How to make a safety plan.

Keep a list of support services

Include in your safety plan a list of services that you can call upon when you are in need of assistance. You could start with listing some telephone helplines. SuicideLine (1300 651 251) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides free support to people in Victoria who are affected by suicide. It may help to have your safety plan with you when you make the call because the counsellor can work with your plan to help keep you safe. If you don’t have a plan, a counsellor can help you create one.

Learn your triggers

Identify what sets off the negative thoughts. It may be that these thoughts are activated when you spend a lot of time alone, when you are exposed to stressful situations, or perhaps on the anniversary of a painful event. Whatever the trigger is, make use of the safety plan when your triggers arise before you start to have suicidal thoughts.

Practice relaxation techniques

This could be a breathing exercise, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation. These activities can help to calm you and distract you from the intense thoughts. For some examples of relaxation techniques, see Self-help for suicidal feelings.

Stress relievers and distractions

List some activities that you may find helpful in distracting you from the invasive negative feelings. These might include the following:
  • Reading a book 
  • Going for a walk
  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Drawing, sketching or painting
  • Take time out to treat yourself to a small thing you ordinarily enjoy, and savour it

Looking after yourself after a suicide attempt

Now more than ever it is important to take care of yourself. For a while at least, life might feel dull, uncomfortable and strange. Establishing a routine can help you to get through this difficult period. Eating well, getting enough sleep and doing some physical activity will help improve your mood. You can start introducing more things into your routine once you feel ready.

Get help if you need it

Should you continue to have suicidal thoughts, it is vital that you get help so that you can stay safe. If you’re already receiving professional help or support, it’s important that you stay in contact with these services, particularly if you’re feeling troubled. If you feel you need some extra support, you may wish to consider calling a crisis line like SuicideLine (1300 651 251), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) or Lifeline (13 11 13).

You could also reach out to a trusted friend or family member. It’s very important that you are honest with the person who is helping you. Let them know how you’re feeling, and what you think you need to ensure you get the best possible help. 

Remember that there is hope. Recovery may take time, but it is possible.

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