Help your loved one heal after a suicide attempt by drug overdose
Discovering someone you care about has tried to end his or her life by using a drug can be a devastating experience. You may be wondering how to approach your suicidal loved one relationally, and what you can do to ensure this never happens again. The following is some helpful advice to maximize your role during this difficult time.
- make sure they are stable
- encourage communication
- create a safe living environment
- seek professional help
- watch for warning signs
- minimize the seriousness of the situation
- use patronizing or critical language
- promise to keep suicidal thoughts and feelings a secret
- ignore the issues
- think you are responsible for their health
Do make sure they are stable
This will most likely require hospitalization, depending on the method of the attempted suicide and how life-threatening the situation is at the present. The suicidal person cannot be left alone during the days immediately following the attempt. They are not rational, and although they’ve failed, it doesn’t mean they won’t try again. Having professional help nearby, in an area where safety is maximized, is essential during this time.
Do encourage communication
An individual, who has attempted suicide, may be inclined to suppress their emotions because of embarrassment, shame, or guilt. Loved ones can help be supportive by expressing opinions without placing blame and be willing to listen without interrupting. Ask questions, and avoid using language that’s judgmental or critical. He or she is likely to be devastated, so making the individual feel like they’ve completely lost your respect and approval would be counter-productive.
Do create a safe living environment
If possible, see to it that all potentially dangerous items that could be used to commit suicide are out of the person’s home. Even if they tried using drugs in the past, they could be just as likely to use knives, razors, or firearms. If they are prescribed a medication from a doctor, encourage them to give it to someone to can keep it safe and give it as prescribed.
Do seek professional help
After attempting suicide, many individuals go into hospitalization for evaluation of mental and physical health. Following hospitalization, having regular counseling sessions is important for your loved one to begin discovering the reasons that led him or her to attempt suicide. Depression, anxiety, fear, shame, disgust, and other emotions will surface that can be difficult to deal with. The therapist will suggest short and long-term behavioral changes that will help your loved one to better adjust to life. If he or she has a dependency on the drug they attempted suicide with, loved ones should do what they can to encourage inpatient treatment at a drug rehab facility.
Do watch for warning signs
Only 10% of suicide attempts lead to death, but 80% of those who die have made previous attempts. The first year following a suicide attempt, the individual should be watched closely for indications of ongoing suicidal behavior.
Here are some behaviors to be mindful of:
- Consistent depression or sadness – Note that suicide prevention experts say untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide.
- Talking or writing about death or suicide
- Giving away possessions, especially those the person holds most dear
- Dramatic mood changes
- Change in eating or sleeping habits
- Loss of interest in activities – especially those previously enjoyable
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Abrupt changes in personality
- Withdrawal from family members and friends
- Feelings of hopelessness, or feeling trapped
- Demonstrating strong feelings of anger or rage
- Acting impulsively or recklessly
- Overwhelming feelings of shame and/or guilt
Do not minimize the seriousness of the situation
If someone you know says he or she is thinking of suicide or is behaving in a way that makes you think the person may be suicidal, don’t play it down or ignore the situation. Many people who commit suicide have expressed the intention at some point. You may worry that you’re overreacting, but the safety of your friend or loved one is most important. Don’t worry about straining your relationship when someone’s life is at stake.
Do not use patronizing or critical language
Don’t try to talk the person out of his or her feelings or express shock. Remember, even though someone who is suicidal isn’t thinking logically, the emotions are real. Not respecting how the person feels can shut down communication. Don’t tell someone, “Things could be worse” or “You have everything to live for.” Instead, ask questions such as, “What’s causing you to feel so bad?,” “What would make you feel better?,” or “How can I help?”
Do not promise to keep suicidal thoughts and feelings a secret
Be understanding, but explain that you may not be able to keep such a promise if you think the person’s life is in danger. At that point, you have to get help.
Do not ignore the issues
Not talking about what happened or ignoring the issue altogether often further complicates an already complicated situation and may even increase the risk of a future
suicide attempt for your loved one. It becomes the proverbial elephant in the living room that everyone sees and tiptoes around, but nobody talks about. This has the effect of making him or her feel alienated and separate from everyone.
Do not think you are responsible for their health
Your intervention could help a suicidal loved one be aware of all their options to stay safe. However, you should never neglect your own needs, while going through such a traumatic experience. You are not responsible for preventing anyone from taking their own life.
Here the advice surrounding the support of a loved one who has tried – or you think will try – to commit suicide. Remember to be supportive and watch the warning signs of suicidal behavior. Though you should not be responsible for their health in general, keep in mind these things to help your loved one recover and ensure that they won’t do it again.