Suicide Survivor – An individual who has survived/is surviving through the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Suicide Attempt Survivor – An individual who has survived a suicide attempt.

Surprisingly, if you search the internet for information on surviving a suicide, you will likely find information aimed towards Suicide Survivors as opposed to Attempt Survivors. This is probably due to the number of suicide survivors – one suicide can create a massive impact on a community and create hundreds of suicide survivors.

Still, the reality is that nine out of ten people who attempt suicide will survive, and those individuals will be left with a complicated mix of feelings.

Waking Up Alive is the moment you realize that your suicide attempt was not fatal. While you may think that such a realization could come as a relief – and sometimes it does – it’s important to remember that the individual who is waking up alive made a very real attempt to quit living, and now they’re facing the same problems as before but with the burden of a suicide attempt added to their shoulders.

I attempted suicide and survived… now what?

The first order of business is to make sure you are OK. Depending on the severity of the attempt, you may have ended up in the hospital, or maybe you just woke up with a bad headache in your bedroom or on the floor. Perhaps you didn’t even “wake up” – maybe you were ready to make an attempt but decided against it at the last minute and you’re feeling shaky about how close you came.

Regardless of where you’re at, make sure you are OK. Call someone you can trust to come be with you, and get yourself to a doctor (if you’re not already in the hospital). If you can’t think of anyone to call, dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a crisis counselor, or send a text to 741-741. If you’ve ingested anything or injured yourself in any way, tell your doctor so they can watch your vitals or stitch you up as needed. Even if you did not do anything to harm yourself (but almost did), call someone to be with you, and then reach out to your local crisis intervention services.

You will probably be visiting an inpatient hospital

Despite how it sounds, this is not a bad thing. When we are sick with pneumonia or bronchitis or similar health issues, sometimes it gets bad enough that we have to spend some time in a hospital until we feel better or get stable enough to go home. It’s the same thing with mental health – sometimes we get sick, and sometimes that sickness is bad enough to warrant a stay in a hospital. This is not your fault. You did not make yourself sick.

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of a mental illness. Healthy minds don’t consider suicide, so by making a suicide attempt you have proven that you are struggling with an illness and are a danger to yourself. If your doctor recommends spending time in an inpatient hospital, make the most of it. It can be a much needed reprieve from the stresses of your life, and it will give you some time to focus on yourself and heal.

Each hospital is different, and each stay is different. Allow us to be real with you: the hospital stay will not cure you, nor will you leave 100% better. In fact, many people leave the hospital feeling worse because it was the first step in a long journey of recovery. This is why setting up structured support after a hospital stay is so important – the real work and the real recovery is going to be the everyday steps you take with your counselor/therapist/doctor to get well.

I don’t have time to go to an inpatient hospital! I have school, and a family, and responsibilities…

You just tried to take your life. You did not plan on being here today anyway, right? That means your week is free and clear to take some “me” time. Tell your school that there’s been a medical emergency, or just send in a note that you are sick. You don’t have to tell anyone where you’re going if you don’t want to – but please, see your doctor, seek treatment. You’ve already reached your lowest point – so you might as well give this a try, right?

I’ve already seen my doctor/went to a hospital/received treatment. How do I go back to living?

Remember: recovery is a journey. No one turns around from the events leading up to a suicide attempt in a week, or even a month. It takes time. A survived attempt is not like those white-light life changing near-death experiences. More often than not, the survivor is left with feelings like shame and guilt, maybe relief, maybe disappointment.

Your suicidal thoughts are a symptom of an illness, and those thoughts will go away as you recover from the illness. I promise you this. Chances are you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or maybe even both. This is something that you will need to discuss with a mental health professional, preferably a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will be able to diagnose you, provide talk therapy and medication, and help you on your journey to recovery.

There is no right answer to how to move forward. Everyone responds to a suicide attempt differently. Just know that it is possible to enjoy life again, and over time you will regain control and heal.

  1. Take it one day at a time.

This is the most important thing to remember. One day at a time. If you can make it just 24 more hours, you will find that you are making your way through this period of darkness. Even an inch of progress is still progress.

  1. Speak with a mental health professional on a weekly basis.

Maybe you need to see someone more than once a week – that’s fine. Make sure you are speaking with someone consistently about how you are feeling, how your medication is working or not working, and making goals for how to move forward and out of this darkness. Do not be afraid to be honest with your mental health professional. You’ve already hit the lowest point in your life, so you have nothing left to lose at this point. Throw everything you have into getting better, regaining control, finding a treatment that works, and kicking depression and anxiety in the butt.

  1. Create a Support System.

A support system can include professionals such as a psychiatrist, but it should also include everyday people in your life that you trust, such as your parents, a best friend, a clergy member, your dog, or any other being that you feel you can talk to and calms you down. Let these people in on what’s going on inside – tell them about your attempt and how you are working to get better, and allow them to love on you through the process. When you feel you don’t have any strength to continue on, borrow from the strength of those in your support system.

  1. Prevent future attempts.

You will have bad days, and you will be tempted again. Some days you will feel genuinely disappointed that you are still alive. This is normal, and these feelings will pass. Click here to create a safety plan to help prevent future attempts.

Detoxify your home. Remove any means that can be used to injure yourself. Get rid of sharp objects, ask a friend or relative to hold on to your weapons, and have someone monitor your medication. If given enough time, the urge to hurt yourself will pass. Without the means to harm yourself, the temptations will be easier to manage.

I still need help

Please feel free to reach out to us. We would love to support you on your journey and do whatever we can to assist in your specific situation.

Remember: your life is worth saving. We are glad you are still here to read these words.

What do people think or feel after surviving a suicide attempt?

The person may have mixed emotions. Some people are relieved to still be alive, others may feel a sense of failure. Other feelings might include:

  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Thankfulness
  • Embarassment
  • Regret
  • Depression
  • Lack of Memory
  • Sinfulness
  • Sense of being saved by divine intervention
  • Ambivalence
  • Confusion
  • Anger

What does not help an attempt survivor?

  • Staying away from the person or their family
  • Expressing blame or anger towards the person, yourself, or others
  • Telling the person they should not talk about it
  • Telling the person they should talk about it before they are ready
  • Telling the person they should not feel as they do

What can friends or family members do to help?

  • Let them know you love them
  • Let them know you are glad they are alive
  • Let them know you’ll be there for support
  • Be there for them. Even if they do not want to talk, offer your presence when needed
  • Offer to help them make connections to spiritual or community supports
  • Get support for yourself
  • Give the person chances to talk freely about the attempt
  • Let the person know its OK to tell someone if they feel suicidal in the future
  • Give him/her the phone number for local crisis lines and emergency rooms
  • Check in with the person about their appointments with counselors/therapists
  • If they are not seeing any mental health professionals, suggest they do so