Self-care for the supporter

Supporting a person who is suicidal, has attempted suicide, or is bereaved by suicide, can generate a broad range of feelings. It can be challenging to do but also humbling and rewarding. At times it can be confusing, stressful and even overwhelming. As with any other time of stress it is essential that you look after yourself emotionally and physically. Staying connected with your friends and family should also be a priority.

It’s all about trying to find the right balance for you – balancing how much you can offer others while also looking after your own needs.

Managing stress

There may be a lot of demands on your time and energy. To ensure you remain healthy it is important to try to minimise stress.

  • Take regular breaks. This includes taking breaks during the day and planned times for you, an example is going for a walk outdoors.
  • Set boundaries on what support you can provide and for how long. If you burn out, who would provide support to those you care about?
  • Ask other people for support. Many will welcome the opportunity to be useful.
  • Consider speaking with your employer about what has happened and what may assist at work, such as flexible hours.
  • Try to reduce the demands placed on you, even if this is temporary. Be prepared to say no to additional requests.
  • Don’t make any major life decisions while things are unsettled. 
Develop a support network for yourself

Finding the right mix of people to support you is a key step in looking after yourself. Think about the people you know who are trustworthy, good listeners, who you like being with and who understand you. Some people, who have had similar experiences, have also found it helpful to link with other people in person or online.

  • Catch up regularly with friends, family members and significant others.
  • Identify people in your community who you trust and can talk with.
Making time for yourself
  • During stressful times, it’s easy to overlook your own needs.
  • Look for ways to include activities you enjoy within your usual routine.
  • Spend time with people you like to be with.
  • Remember to look for fun and to laugh.
  • Stay in the moment – notice the times when you are enjoying things.
Consider your lifestyle

Your wellbeing will be affected by your lifestyle. It can be helpful to think about whether your lifestyle is supporting or hindering your capacity to cope.

  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet. Include a variety of healthy foods including plenty of vegetables, fruit and cereals, some lean meat, chicken or fish, dairy products and lots of water.
  • Reduce consumption of alcohol and other drugs.
  • Engage in regular exercise. Spend outdoors, preferably in nature.
  • Establish a good sleep pattern.
  • Make sure relaxation is built into your routine; breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi can be good ways to do this.
  • Meaning and purpose; to help cope through difficult times work out what is important to you, do things that make you feel good.
  • Get involved in activities that you feel are worthwhile and in which you feel valued.
  • Make regular time for your interests and hobbies. Think about joining a group or studying something you have always been interested in.
  • Consider volunteering or how you can give back to the community.
  • Develop an understanding of your experiences. You may be able to do this by yourself or by talking with someone else (or a support service). You may find it helpful to connect with a church, some other spiritual pursuit or participate in creative activities in your community.
  • Plan something to look forward to, such as a holiday.
Access support services

You may find it helpful to access a support service to talk about what has happened and to work out how you can move forward. Health professionals also understand that you need to look after yourself in order to support someone else.

You don’t need to be at crisis point to access a support service. You could have regular appointments or have an arrangement to meet or call them when times are tough or when you simply have questions that need answers. Remember, finding the right person can take time and it is not uncommon to see several service providers before you find one that fits. If you don’t relate to the first person, try to find someone else.

Getting professional support
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Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include: