After a suicide attempt

You don’t have to face this alone. Non-judgemental, professional support is available to keep you safe. 

The first thing to do immediately after a suicide attempt is get medical help for any physical injuries. At a hospital or local medical clinic the staff will know what to do.

On this page we explain what happens immediately after a suicide attempt and how to stay safe in the weeks and months afterwards.

suicide-safety-plan

Crisis support options - for urgent help

If you're seriously injured or at risk of harming yourself right now, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance. For free, confidential 24/7 counselling call or chat online to Lifeline or Suicide Call Back Service. No problem is too big or small.

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What to do immediately after a suicide attempt

If you’ve just attempted suicide, it’s important to see a doctor or mental health worker. You can go to either a hospital or local medical clinic, such as your GP or doctor. They’ll make sure your physical and mental health are both okay.

Hospital after a suicide attempt

At hospital, medical staff will look at physical injuries first. After these have been treated, you’ll see a mental health worker.

The mental health worker will talk with you about what’s happened, why, and whether you’re still at risk. They’ll ask you:

  • how your mood has been
  • how you’ve been managing your day-to-day activities (for example, work and family responsibilities)
  • how your relationships have been going
  • if you’ve been experiencing any major stresses.

The mental health worker will help you make plans for the next few days and weeks. They might also make appointments or recommend you contact an appropriate health service.

Going to the doctor after a suicide attempt

If you go to a local medical clinic a general practitioner (GP) will talk to you about what’s happened and find out if you need any medical tests.

After a physical health check, the doctor will talk more about:

  • what’s been happening
  • what supports are available at home
  • if there are any risks of further harm.

They might also suggest that going to see a local counsellor or health service would be helpful.

The GP will put plans in place to ensure you have support over the following days and weeks. They’ll probably suggest you return for follow-up appointments to monitor how you’re going and whether you have enough support.

Consider taking someone with you to the hospital or doctor

Immediately after a suicide attempt you might find it hard to think clearly or remember details of conversations. You may also find it is hard to talk about what’s happened or to describe to others how you’re feeling.

Consider involving someone you trust in conversations with the health professional. They can be a second pair of ears and provide extra information in discussions.

Confidentiality after a suicide attempt

You have the right to tell health professionals when you don’t want them to discuss your situation with others in your support network.

All health professionals are legally required to maintain their patient’s confidentiality but there are some exceptions. These include if:

  • you’ve given permission to share your personal information
  • they believe you may hurt yourself or somebody else
  • they need to talk with another health professional about you and your treatment
  • they are legally required to share your confidential information.

If you don’t give permission

If you do not give permission for information to be shared, people supporting you can still give information to the health professionals. They can also ask for advice and information about their role and what to expect.

Before going home

With the right support in place you should be able to go home.

If you don’t feel safe

If you don’t feel safe to return home, tell the medical staff and ask what other options are available.

Write down important information

Before you go home make sure you know:

  • What you can do to make it easier to get through the next few days.
  • What supports are available and useful to you when you return home.
  • What you should do if you feel suicidal again.
  • Names and contact details for counselling or other support services.
  • Names and contact details for emergency services.

It can be helpful to write this information down so that you can refer to it again later. Often it can be hard to remember things when you are tired or stressed.

You can record this information in the Beyond Now suicide safety planning app.

The first few days after a suicide attempt

The first few days after your suicide attempt are critical and will often raise a range of big issues and questions such as:

  • What now?
  • How can I be sure I will get back on track?
  • How can I stay safe?

There are no simple answers but there are several things you can do to make it easier.

  • Let other people assist you when possible.
  • If you live alone, consider asking someone you trust to stay with you until things settle down. Or you might prefer to stay at their home for a while.
  • Follow the advice of doctors and take any medication they’ve prescribed.
  • Try to establish a routine with sleeping, meals and exercise.
  • Keep appointments with counsellors and doctors.
  • Remove things in and around the house that you could harm yourself with.
  • Keep the use of alcohol and drugs to a minimum and preferably avoid them altogether. They can impair your judgement and make you feel worse.
  • If people are trying to be helpful, acknowledge and respond to them. Although you may still not be in a space to talk in any detail, let them know you will talk more when you feel ready.

Getting support after a suicide attempt

It’s important to surround yourself with support to keep you safe and help you recover. This can include:

Connecting with others for support

It’s common to feel unsure, worried and even distressed about what to say to others. We can help you with information and resources to get you started.

How to talk about your experience after a suicide attempt

Crisis support

If people from your support network aren’t available and you feel worried, unsure or suicidal again, you can call a telephone counselling or support service such as Lifeline.

Contact Lifeline by phone, text or live chat. It's free, confidential and they're ready to help you at any time of day or night. Call 13 11 14, text 0477 131 114, or visit their website for live chat.

Contact Lifeline (available 24 hours a day)

Safety planning – helping you stay safe if you’re feeling suicidal

A safety plan gives you 7 steps to follow if you start to feel suicidal again. Often a health professional will work with you to develop a safety plan. You can also create one yourself using our Beyond Now app.

A safety plan helps you cope by:   

  1. recognising your warning signs
  2. making your surroundings safe
  3. reminding you of reasons to live
  4. finding things that can make you feel strong
  5. connecting with people and places
  6. talking to family and friends
  7. getting professional support.

Make a safety plan

Common reactions after a suicide attempt

There’s no right or wrong way to feel following a suicide attempt. You can experience a range of feelings. You might find these feelings can change quickly and unexpectedly.

What you might be thinking or feeling

You might feel exhausted, numb, remorseful, or embarrassed. Or you might feel shame or guilt, worried about how your attempt has affected those around you.

You might also feel angry about what’s happened and find it hard to see any hope for the future. Alternatively, you might be relieved and glad that you’ve survived but unsure about what happens now.

While suicidal thoughts may return, they’re not permanent. Someone who has experienced suicidal thoughts or attempts can go on to live a long life.

I didn’t want to stop living. I just wanted the pain to stop.
Read Emily's story.

Understanding your reasons for attempting suicide

You might not know why, or even if, you wanted to end your life. You might feel confused by what’s happened.

Understanding why you attempted suicide and how this affects you can take time. It’s an important step in finding your way back.

Some of the reasons others have given for attempting suicide have included:

  • The situation was so unbearable, I couldn’t think of an alternative.
  • I felt trapped. There was no other way I could get away.
  • I was just so agitated and completely on the edge all the time, I needed to do something.
  • I felt overwhelmed and out of control.
  • I needed to get help and let others know how desperate I felt.
  • I felt like a failure and a burden. I just wanted to make it easier for those around me.
  • I don’t know why I did it.

A suicide attempt is often associated with intense psychological pain along with negative feelings that seem endless and impossible to escape from.

Supporting someone returning to work after a suicide attempt

Returning to work can be difficult – but it could be an opportunity to keep occupied and return to a new kind of normality and routine.

Supporting someone returning to work

Finding your way back - resources

Information on this page was developed with major input from many people who have attempted suicide and their family and friends. It has been developed for ordinary, everyday people encountering the very difficult and intensely emotional time that occurs after a suicide attempt.

We don’t propose any one solution or path but provide information and thoughts based on shared experience and knowledge in the hope that your journey will be gentler and more informed.

Resources to help you find your way back