After attempting to take his own life, JD Schramm committed himself to putting his life back together physically, emotionally and spiritually. But he quickly found there were very few resources available for somebody in his position.
“This truly is an at-risk population,” Schramm said in his Ted Talk about surviving a suicide attempt. “Because of our taboos around suicide, we’re not sure what to say and so quite often we say nothing.”
And saying nothing can further isolate people who have attempted suicide.
“If you are someone who has contemplated or attempted suicide or you know somebody who has, talk about it,” he counseled.
Surviving a Suicide Attempt
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage on preventing suicide, approximately 1.4 million American adults attempted suicide in 2017.
Survivors of an attempt are treated like patients who survive a medical emergency. They should not expect an immediate recovery and are encouraged to follow the instructions they receive upon discharge from a hospital, explains the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) on its “After an Attempt” webpage.
The AFSP highlights steps to aid the recovery process:
- Have self-compassion and patience with the recovery process.
- Focus on improving your physical health.
- Talk to a mental health professional, support group or trusted friend.
- Create a safety plan (PDF, 58 KB) to avoid triggers and identify coping strategies.
Family and friends may also experience trauma related to the incident, resulting in emotions such as anger, sadness, fear and anxiety. The AFSP encourages loved ones to acknowledge their feelings and seek support to process their emotions. Being present and supportive of the recovery process for the person who made the attempt can help them feel less isolated. But loved ones should also recognize that recovery will take time.
It’s important to recognize the many warning signs and risk factors for suicide, including a previous suicide attempt. If you are having a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Resources for Survivors of a Suicide Attempt
If you have been affected by a suicide attempt or know someone who has, consider reaching out to the following organizations or using these resources:
Organizations and Resources
- American Association of Suicidology’s Support Groups Directory
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Connections: Peer Support for Suicide Attempt Survivors and Those with Suicidal Thoughts
- Crisis Text Line
- Live Through This
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline MY3 App
- Now Matters Now
- SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- The Jed Foundation
- The Kim Foundation
- Wellness Recovery Action Plan
- With Help Comes Hope: Support for Persons Living with Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempts
Toolkits and Brochures
- “After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department (324.56KB),”Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Describes what family members can expect in the emergency room and afterward.
- “After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Yourself After Your Treatment in the Emergency Department (PDF, 632KB),” SAMHSA: Information and resources to help move ahead after leaving the hospital.
- “After an Attempt: The Emotional Impact of a Suicide Attempt on Families (PDF, 364KB),” Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Council: Describes what to expect when coming home from the ER, including what family members should know about what to do, what not to do and more warning signs.
- “Engaging People With Lived Experience: A Toolkit for Organizations,” Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Information for organizations and agencies on how to improve suicide prevention strategies by including people who have experience with suicide, such as someone who has survived an attempt or lost a loved one.
- “How You Can Play a Role in Preventing Suicide,” SAMHSA: Prevention information and facts on high-risk populations.
- “How to Talk to a Child About a Suicide Attempt in Your Family,” Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education Clinical, Centers of Excellence, Department of Veterans Affairs: Guides adults through the process of discussing and ways to support children who have a family member recovering from a suicide attempt.
- ”A Journey Toward Health and Hope,” SAMHSA: Includes personal stories from survivors and strategies for recovery, such as re-establishing connections and finding a counselor.
- “Manual for Support Groups for Suicide Attempt Survivors (PDF, 1.7MB),” Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center: Guidance for facilitators working with high-risk individuals who have survived suicide attempts.
- “Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools,” SAMHSA: Information to help schools and school districts assess their ability to prevent suicides and integrate prevention programs into school activities.
- Recommended Standard Care for People With Suicide Risk: Making Health Care Suicide Safe (PDF, 399KB),” National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Describes gaps in health care that contribute to suicide and offers tips how health care organizations can better identify and support patients who are at high risk for suicide.
- “The Way Forward: Pathways to Hope, Recovery and Wellness with Insights from Lived Experience (PDF, 1.9MB),” National Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force: Offers guidance on how to open discussion and improve suicide prevention strategies by using feedback from suicide attempt survivors.
Podcasts and Videos
- SAMHSA: “Stories of Hope and Recovery: A Video Guide for Suicide Attempt Survivors”
- TED Talk: “Break the Silence for Suicide Attempt Survivors”
- TED Talk: “How to Start a Conversation About Suicide”
- TEDx Talk: “You’re Still Here–Living After Suicide.”
- The S Word Documentary
Recommendations for People Affected by a Suicide
Unfortunately, many who make an attempt will die by suicide. The CDC also reported that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2017.
In the weeks and months after the event, survivors of a suicide—in this case, friends and family—may experience a host of different emotions related to grief, including denial, anger, guilt, despair and abandonment.
As a way of navigating those waves of emotion, the American Association of Suicidology and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s webpage for loss survivors provide recommendations for survivors of suicide, including:
- Prepare for grief to hit at different times.
- Recognize that you don’t have to discuss the event.
- Write out answers to the inevitable questions that may arise from others.
- Maintain your physical health and practice self-care.
- Listen to the stories of others who may have been in a similar situation.
- Ask for help from a counselor, family members and friends.
- Take the recovery process at your own pace.
For those who want to help someone whose loved one has died by suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Jed Foundation’s webpage on how to help a suicide survivor suggest:
- Acknowledge the event, offer your support and make yourself available when they are ready for your help.
- Check in on the survivor during important dates like anniversaries and birthdays.
- Don’t shy from saying the name of the deceased. This can help make it easier for survivors to talk about them.
- Avoid saying you understand how a person is feeling.
- Encourage the survivor to talk to a professional and a support group. Have lists of contact information for them.
Resources for Survivors of Suicide
If you have survived a suicide or know someone who has, consider reaching out to the following organizations or using the following resources:
- Alliance of Hope
- Friends for Survival
- Heartbeat Survivors After Suicide
- SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- SOSL, Survivors of Suicide Loss
- Suicide: Finding Hope
- TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
- The Trevor Project
Toolkits and Brochures
- “Coping After Suicide Loss,” American Psychological Association: Advice for grieving adults, children and schools.
- “Help & Hope: For Survivors of Suicide Loss (PDF, 4.3MB),” STOP Suicide Northeast Indiana: How to tell family and friends, how to remember the loved one, how to manage social media and how to recognize suicide risk in yourself and family members.
- “Preventing Suicide: How to Start a Survivors’ Group (PDF, 214KB),” World Health Organization and International Association for Suicide Prevention: Guidance on organizing a support group for suicide survivors.
- “SOS: A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide (PDF, 284KB),” American Association of Suicidology: What to expect emotionally and from others and how to cope with the grief and questions.
- “Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss: A Guide for Funeral Directors (PDF, 696KB),” SAMHSA: Recommends how funeral directors can address the effects of suicide loss with family and friends.
- “Toolkit: Resources for Suicide Loss Survivors (PDF, 101KB),” American Association of Suicidology: Summarizes common emotions connected to grief, how to deal with stigma, healing and children survivors.
- “After a Parent’s Suicide: Helping Children Heal,” by Margo Requarth
- “Life After Suicide: A Ray of Hope for Those Left Behind,” by E. Betsy Ross
- “After a Suicide: Young People Speak Up,” by Susan Kuklin
- “Grief After Suicide: Understanding the Consequences and Caring for the Survivors,” by John. R. Jordan and John L. Mcintosh
- “Healing After the Suicide of a Loved One,” by Ann Smolin and Joh Guinan
- “My Son…My Son: A Guide to Healing After Death, Loss, or Suicide,” by Iris Bolton with Curtis Mitchell
- “No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One,” by Carla Fine
- “Real Men Do Cry: A Quarterback’s Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression and Surviving Suicide Loss,” by Eric Hipple with Gloria Horsley and Heidi Horsley
- “Someone I Love Died by Suicide: A Story for Child Survivors and Those Who Care for Them,” by Doreen T. Cammarata
- “Why Suicide: Questions and Answers About Suicide, Suicide Prevention, and Coping with the Suicide of Someone You Know,” by Eric Marcus
- The Grief Girl
- Hope, Surviving the Loss of Suicide
- Life After Suicide
- Suicide Grief: The Stories Behind the Story of Loss
This article is for informational purposes. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or mental health crisis, please reach out to a mental health professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.