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Home » Get Support » Resource Hub » Coping after a Suicide Attempt

Finding Support after a Suicide Attempt

If you’re finding it hard to cope after a suicide attempt, please know that you’re not alone, and we’re here to support you.

Understanding your feelings after a suicide attempt

Experiencing a suicide attempt can be profoundly disorienting, and the subsequent days and weeks may feel especially daunting. It’s normal to experience a variety of emotions, which can change over time. Whatever you’re feeling right now, it’s okay to feel that way.

Here are some common emotions you might encounter:

  • Relief: You might feel relieved to have survived or that others are now aware of your struggles.
  • Numbness: It’s common to feel nothing at all or a sense of emptiness after such an intense experience.
  • Disappointment: You might feel disappointed that you survived.
  • Anger: Anger can be directed towards yourself for making the attempt or towards the situation that you are still in. It’s also possible to feel frustrated by others’ reactions to your attempt.
  • Shame: Feeling shame is a deeply uncomfortable experience, but it’s important to acknowledge and address these feelings.
  • Guilt: You might feel guilty for the distress your attempt may have caused to others.
  • Embarrassment: It’s normal to feel embarrassed when sharing your experience, especially with those who may not fully understand.
  • Loneliness: You may feel misunderstood or isolated, or perhaps nobody knows about your attempt.
  • Regret: Regret can manifest in wishing things had ended differently or regretting that the attempt wasn’t successful.
  • Fear: If suicide seemed like the only solution, the future might now feel uncertain and frightening.
  • Confusion: The coexistence of conflicting emotions can make it difficult to understand exactly what you’re feeling.

Regardless of whether this was your first attempt or if you’ve been here before, you deserve ongoing support and understanding.

Understanding trauma after a suicide attempt

An attempt to end your life can be frightening, distressing and traumatic. You may find yourself dealing with trauma symptoms immediately after the event or even long after it has passed.

Symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Reliving the Experience: This can occur through flashbacks or nightmares that bring you back to the moment of the attempt.
  • Avoidance: You might steer clear of places, people, or activities that remind you of that time.
  • Dissociation: Feeling disconnected from your body, feeling spaced out, or sensing that the world around you doesn’t seem real.
  • Hyperalertness: Feeling unusually alert or constantly on edge.
  • Disturbing Thoughts and Emotions: You may struggle with challenging beliefs or intense emotions.

What to expect after a suicide attempt

The aftermath of a suicide attempt varies based on individual circumstances. You might find yourself in a hospital to receive treatment for physical injuries or you may seek other forms of help.

Not All Experiences Are Shared

It’s possible that you haven’t shared your experience with anyone. Carrying the weight of this experience alone can be overwhelming. Remember, it’s never too late to seek support, no matter how much time has passed since your attempt. 

See our section on where to find support.

What to Expect if You Go to Hospital

If you go to the hospital after attempting suicide, the type of treatment you receive will depend on your specific situation. Generally, here are a few things you can expect:

  1. Life-saving treatment: If you need immediate medical care to save your life, this will be the priority. You may need to stay in the hospital for tests and treatment if you have physical injuries or if there’s any concern about your health.
  2. Mental Health Assessment: While you’re in the hospital, a healthcare professional should assess your mental health. Some Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments have a liaison psychiatry team that provides specialised mental health care. You can ask to see them.
  3. Role of the Liaison Psychiatry Team or Mental Health Team: The liaison psychiatry team or mental health team may:
    • Conduct an initial assessment of your mental health needs (sometimes called a psychiatric evaluation).
    • Help keep you safe in the short term.
    • Prescribe medication if necessary.
    • Connect you with other services for ongoing support, such as your local crisis team (CRHT).
    • Decide whether you can go home or need to be admitted to the hospital for further care.
  4. Hospital stay: You may be kept in the hospital overnight for observation. Depending on your condition, you might stay longer for mental health support, or the hospital staff might determine that you’re ready to go home.

Remember, going to the hospital is an important step in getting the help you need. The healthcare professionals are there to ensure both your physical and mental well-being and to connect you with ongoing support.

Dealing with physical injuries from a suicide attempt

If your suicide attempt resulted in physical injuries, you might find yourself navigating not only your emotional recovery but also physical healing. These injuries could range from temporary to permanent, potentially causing pain and limiting mobility.

Support for Physical Recovery:

  • Consulting Your GP: Speak with your general practitioner (GP) about support services and treatments for your physical injuries.
  • Therapy: Taking part in talking therapy can help you process your experience and learn coping strategies to deal with the physical and psychological aftermath.

What Happens When You Leave Hospital?

Leaving the hospital after a suicide attempt can be a daunting experience, especially if you are returning to the place where your attempt occurred. Here are some steps and considerations to help you navigate this transition:

Follow-Up Care Planning

Before you leave the hospital, staff should discuss and plan your follow-up care. This often includes creating a care plan, which involves:

  • Assessing any risks you might face.
  • Planning who you should contact if you need support.
  • Informing your GP about your situation and the care plan.

Immediate Follow-Up Care

You may receive follow-up care within 48 hours of leaving the hospital to:

  • Assess your risk of self-harm or another suicide attempt.
  • Determine what additional help and support you need. This care will be provided by a mental health team, your GP, or the hospital staff who developed your follow-up care plan.

Supportive Living Arrangements

If you live alone or don’t feel supported by the people you live with, consider staying with someone you trust for a while. Having a supportive environment can be crucial during your recovery.

What if I don’t have somewhere safe to go when I leave hospital?

If you don’t have a safe place to go after leaving the hospital, whether due to homelessness, risk of homelessness, or escaping a difficult situation such as domestic abuse, it’s important to communicate this to the hospital ward staff as soon as possible. After a suicide attempt, you will likely be asked about any safeguarding concerns, including issues like domestic abuse.

Seeking Help

The hospital staff can assist in finding temporary accommodation or connecting you with services that support people in crisis. Don’t hesitate to express your concerns and ask for help.

Remember, planning for your safety and well-being is a crucial part of your recovery. Hospital staff and other healthcare providers are there to support you and ensure you have the resources and care needed to navigate this challenging time.

What to do if your’e unsatisfied with your care?

If you feel that the care provided was insufficient or not up to expected standards, it’s important to know your rights and available actions:

  • NICE Guidelines: Health professionals are advised to adhere to the guidelines set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which outline the care standards for individuals who have self-harmed, including attempts of suicide.
  • Making a Complaint: If your experience doesn’t meet these standards, our resources on seeking help for mental health problems include guidelines on how to voice your concerns or file a complaint.

Creating a safety plan

Developing a safety plan can be a proactive step in managing your well-being after a suicide attempt, particularly if you’re concerned about future risks of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. Your plan is personal to you, but it could include:

  • Recognising Warning Signs: Reflect on any changes in your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that you noticed before your previous attempt. Identifying these signs can help you act early in a crisis.
  • Coping Strategies: Think about what has helped you handle distressing emotions in the past. Consider how you can apply these strategies again if needed.
  • Support Network: List the names and contact details of people you trust and can turn to when in distress. These could be friends, family members, or others you feel comfortable reaching out to.
  • Professional Help: Include contact information for your local crisis team and other mental health professionals who you can contact during an emergency.
  • Helplines and Listening Services: Add details of available helplines and services where trained professionals are ready to provide support and companionship whenever you need it.
  • Safety Measures in Your Environment: Consider ways to make your surroundings safe, such as removing items that could be used for self-harm.
  • Safe Places: Identify and note down safe places you can go if you need support, like the home of a trusted friend or family member.

Self-care tips after a suicide attempt

Recovering from a suicide attempt is a deeply personal journey that varies from one person to another. It’s important to find what works best for you and remember that it’s okay if your needs and what helps you change over time. Here are some tips to consider for taking care of yourself during this challenging period:

Allow yourself time to heal

Understand that it’s perfectly okay to need time to heal both physically and emotionally after a suicide attempt.

You might be dealing with the emotions or circumstances that led to your attempt, as well as new stresses such as deciding when or how to tell others.

Consider taking a temporary step back from obligations like work or school to focus on recovery.

Continue with your treatment

If you were already under treatment for mental health issues, continuing with your established plan is crucial.

Discuss with your healthcare provider whether your current treatment is effective or if adjustments are necessary to better support your recovery.

Clearly communicate you needs

It’s not always obvious to others how they can help you. It’s important to clearly express your needs. If you find it difficult to explain the support you need, here are a few ways others might be able to assist you:

  • Assistance in creating or following a safety plan.
  • Temporary accommodation with a friend or family member.
  • Help with daily tasks such as chores, cooking, or cleaning.
  • Support in managing appointments or medications.
  • Regular reminders for self-care like eating, drinking, and personal hygiene.
  • Silent companionship – sometimes just having someone sit with you quietly can be comforting.

Even if you’re not ready to accept help right now, consider what types of support might be beneficial in the future.

Try to set clear boundaries with others

After a suicide attempt, you might find yourself needing different levels of support. Some may prefer close support, while others might wish for solitude. It’s important to communicate your needs clearly.

Discuss how you prefer to communicate and what areas of support you are comfortable with or wish to avoid.

This clarity can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed and manage interactions more effectively during your recovery.

Making your environment safe

Consider securing or removing items that could pose a risk to your safety. You might ask someone you trust to help with this.

Be cautious with media that could trigger distress. UtiliseUtilise content warnings, and don’t hesitate to turn off devices if necessary to protect your mental health.

Take care of your basic needs

Focus on essential daily activities like eating, staying hydrated, and maintaining personal hygiene.

Incorporate small, manageable tasks into your daily schedule to provide structure. This might include medication times, meal times, or simple household chores.

Consider using apps or reminders to help keep track of daily tasks, or ask someone to check in with you.

Spend time doing something you enjoy

Engaging in an activity you enjoy can be a great way to distract yourself from challenging emotions and add meaning to your life. It doesn’t need to be a grand or costly endeavour. Whether it’s something you do alone or with others, the key is that it brings you joy.

Think about hobbies you’ve enjoyed before or consider exploring new ones. Creative pursuits like writing and painting can be particularly therapeutic as they allow you to process difficult emotions. Likewise, spending time outdoors or with animals can be very soothing. Alternatively, watching a favorite TV show or revisiting a beloved book can also provide comfort and a sense of familiarity.

How to talk about your suicide attempt

Deciding to talk about your suicide attempt is a deeply personal decision. You are not obligated to share anything unless you feel ready. However, if you choose to open up, doing so can help you receive support and might also provide relief.

Friends and Family

It might seem daunting to bring up such a sensitive topic with close ones, but sharing your experiences with friends and family can allow them to offer the necessary support. Sometimes, simply talking things through can be incredibly healing.

Peer Support Groups or Online Forums

Engaging with a community that understands can be immensely beneficial. In peer support groups or online forums, you can connect with others who have faced similar challenges. These groups offer a space to exchange stories and advice, ensuring you follow the group’s guidelines on sharing sensitive information.

Your General Practitioner (GP)

If you received hospital treatment, your healthcare team would likely have informed your GP about your situation. However, if you haven’t yet sought help following your attempt, it might be a good idea to inform your GP yourself. Knowing about your struggles allows your GP to provide appropriate support and referrals.

Your employer

Deciding whether to share details of your suicide attempt with your employer can be challenging. Concerns about confidentiality and fair treatment are common, but if you feel comfortable opening up, it can lead to better support at work.

Take a look at our section on talking to your employer for more advice.

Do I need to tell my employer

Deciding to inform your employer about your suicide attempt depends greatly on your specific circumstances, including the duration of your absence and your comfort with disclosure.

Short-Term Absence (Under 7 Days)

If you’re absent from work for less than seven days, you typically do not need to disclose the specific reasons related to a suicide attempt to your employer. Should your employer inquire about your absence, a general explanation, such as needing time off for mental health reasons, may suffice. This keeps your privacy intact while providing a valid reason for your absence.

Extended Absence (7 Days or More)

For absences longer than a week, you are required to provide your employer with a fit note from a healthcare provider, such as a GP, hospital doctor, or pharmacist. This fit note is necessary to explain your absence formally and to initiate statutory sick pay if applicable. The NHS provides detailed guidance on obtaining a fit note.

Potential Support from Your Employer

If you decide to share details about your situation, identifying a trusted individual within your organisation, such as a line manager or HR professional, can be beneficial. They may offer support through:

  • Phased Return to Work: Gradually reintegrating you into your work schedule.
  • Wellness Action Plan (WAP): Helping create a plan tailored to support your wellbeing at work.
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP): Providing access to counseling and support services.
  • Reasonable Adjustments: Making modifications in your work environment or duties to accommodate your needs.

Handling Potential Discrimination

Disclosing mental health issues can, unfortunately, lead to stigma or discrimination in some cases. However, mental health conditions are often protected under disability discrimination laws, which means you have legal rights. Our resources on disability discrimination offer guidance on how to address and report discrimination. Additionally, organisations like Acas provide extensive support and advice for dealing with workplace issues.

When deciding whether to tell your employer, weigh the benefits of potential support against the risks of possible negative outcomes. Your privacy and wellbeing should always be a priority.

Where to find support

After attempting suicide, it can be challenging to know where to seek help. However, reaching out for support is a crucial step towards recovery. It’s always okay to ask for help, even if you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing a mental health problem. This section outlines some ways you can find support.

Your GP

Scheduling an appointment with your General Practitioner (GP) is a good starting point for getting support. Your GP can refer you to other mental health services and prescribe medication if needed. If you received hospital treatment for your suicide attempt, you might already be in contact with mental health services, and they will communicate with your GP.

Talking Therapies

Talking to someone after your suicide attempt can help you understand what happened and process your emotions. If you want to try talking therapy, you can ask your GP for a referral. In England, you may also be able to refer yourself through the NHS’s tool to find local NHS therapy services. Private therapy is another option, but it can be costly.

Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs)

After your suicide attempt, you might be referred to a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). CMHTs support people with severe or long-lasting mental health problems outside of hospital settings. The team may include various health and care professionals such as community psychiatric nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists, counsellors, community support workers, and social workers. You may also be assigned a care coordinator who will keep in regular contact with you and help plan your care.

Crisis Teams

You may be referred to a crisis team if you need urgent mental health support after your suicide attempt. Crisis teams can assist if you need immediate help, such as hospitalization for your mental health. For more information, visit our page about crisis teams.

What if I already had mental health support?

If you were already receiving mental health support when you attempted suicide, those services might be the best place to start. If you went to the hospital after your attempt, these services would likely be informed of what happened, and they might adjust your treatment plan to help prevent future attempts.

Remember, seeking help is a brave and important step towards healing. There are many resources and professionals ready to support you on your journey to recovery.

Organisations who can help

If you have experienced a suicide attempt or are dealing with mental health issues, here are some organisations that may be able to help: