Finding your way back 

Getting your life back on track after attempting suicide is not easy. It takes time to recover physically and emotionally. The information below should not be taken as medical advice but a starting point for working through some of the questions that can come up after a suicide attempt. It also offers ideas about what may assist you in regaining a sense of control. 

People who have attempted suicide, and their family members and friends played an important role in the development of all the information featured below, and their stories and quotes are presented throughout. This is what they wanted you to know first and foremost:


''You are not alone and you can get through this.''



 

Getting immediate support

If you have just attempted suicide, it is important to see a doctor or mental health worker at either a hospital or clinic to make sure your physical and mental health are both okay. See the Get support now page for a range of  immediate services available.


At the hospital

If you are admitted to hospital, your physical injuries will be examined, followed by a mental health assessment. 

During this assessment, the mental health professional will speak with you about what has happened, why, and if any risks remain. This will typically cover how you are managing your mood, daily activities, relationships and the stresses in your life. The health professional will then assist you with making plans for the next few days, such as appointments and contact with a health service.

Seeing a General Practitioner

If you go to the local medical clinic a General Practitioner (GP) will discuss your situation and determine if further medical tests are needed. Once the doctor or health worker is satisfied there are no physical problems, they will talk more about what has been happening, supports available at home, and risk of further harm. They might also suggest seeing a local counsellor or health service.

Experiences with health professionals 

People who have attempted suicide, and the people supporting them, have reported a range of experiences from health professionals. Some have found staff to be supportive and available while others felt that staff were distracted, unhelpful, and had little or no time to talk.

How a health professional responds to you will depend on their personal attitude towards suicide and their level of skill, confidence and comfort in responding to suicide attempts. Time pressures within the clinic or hospital may also affect the amount of time that they can spend with you. All health services have systems in place for people to provide feedback about their experience.

 

iStock_000015435674_300x450


''When you are in the middle of it, you don't necessarily want someone to have all the answers...you just want someone to sit by you, who will keep you safe, not make any judgments, acknowledge what is happening for you and help you develop your own understanding.''



Consider involving others

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 has happened or to describe to others how you are 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.

 

About confidentiality

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. Confidentiality can be discussed further with the health service professional.


Advice on seeing a counsellor

"I needed to get helped. So, I went to the GP and said, "Give me the help." So, like "Just fix me." I spoke to a psychologist and started the recovery, I guess. What came back was, that sort of, mental realignment and that mental check. The feedback from a counsellor, was, "Well, the way you feel is how a lot of people feel."

Before heading home

With the right support in place you should be able to go home. If you do not feel safe to return home, say so and ask what other options are available. Also consider:

  • what you can do that will make it easier to get though 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, see the Safety planning page on this website for useful tips
  • names and contact details for counselling or other support services, these can also be found on the Get support now page on this website.

 

In the short term

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 and how can I stay safe?

Using your support network

Surround yourself with people that you trust, who will listen to you without judgment and that you enjoy being with. There is room for a whole range of people in your support network but make sure you identify at least one person you feel that you can talk with about how you are feeling.

Different people may have different roles. For example a parent or family member may help you feel loved and cared for, and a 24 hour phone service may provide non-judgmental crisis support.

There is room for a whole range of people in your support network but make sure you identify at least one person you feel that you can talk with about how you are feeling.​

Getting support from a health professional

A health professional can help to address the feelings or situations that led up to your suicide attempt. You can talk openly about what has happened and find new ways to cope with difficult decisions, experiences or emotions.

You might find sessions with a health professional useful to:

  • sort through how you are feeling and why
  • provide a different perspective
  • link you in with other doctors or experts when necessary 
  • help develop new coping strategies.

Even if you don’t think it will be helpful to link in with a health professional consider having a couple of sessions to try it out. Be mindful that finding a health professional you are comfortable with can take time.

Understanding medication

After a suicide attempt you may be prescribed medication to help improve your mood. Unlike antibiotics some of these medications take time to take effect; anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks. Sometimes medications can make you feel worse.

When starting a new medication you should have regular reviews with your doctor so they can monitor your progress and check for any side-effects. It’s also important to talk to your support network and doctor about how you’re feeling.

It may take several tries before you find a medication that suits you, so continuing to see the doctor while this is sorted out is essential. If you decide to stop taking your medication, it’s best to do so slowly, with supervision by your doctor.

Other support and guidance

If you seek support or guidance from traditional healers, non-Western, community or religious leaders, it is wise to tell them all about the other types of services or advice you are getting. They can then consider this information before deciding what other supports may be useful.

Common reactions

Following a suicide attempt you can experience a range of feelings, and you might find that these feelings can change quickly and unexpectedly.

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 not know why, or even if, you wanted to end your life. You might feel confused by what has happened. The reason for your attempt will perhaps become clearer as you work through your thoughts and feelings in the next few days and weeks.

Understanding why you attempted suicide and how this now affects you can take time, but it is an important step in finding your way back.

 

''There is no right or wrong way to feel following a suicide attempt.''

 

Stressful life events may be trigger suicidal feelings and can include:

  • feeling alone, isolated and without any friends or family
  • going through a difficult relationship breakup
  • losing a job
  • experiencing a financial crisis
  • being bullied at work or school
  • experiencing discrimination and isolation due to sexuality, culture or disability
  • going to court for legal matters
  • experiencing drug and alcohol problems.

​And sometimes there appears to be no obvious life events or experiences that have led to a suicide attempt. 

 

The people supporting you

People can react in a range of ways when they hear that someone they know and care about has attempted suicide. Initially they might feel panicked or shocked by the news.

Feelings of anger, betrayal, guilt and self-blame are also common reactions as they try to understand what has happened.

Their response will depend on how they feel, their past experiences and whether they are comfortable talking about difficult times. Their beliefs around life and death and their cultural or religious beliefs may also play a part in how they respond to you. It is possible that people may be fearful of saying the wrong thing.


Suggestions of what to say to people supporting you

  • Acknowledge and thank those who make contact.
  • If you are unsure about what to say, thank them for their concern and let them know you are handling things as best as you can.
  • If you find it comforting to have people with you let them know that you appreciate their support.
  • Consider sharing how you feel and seeking support from those you trust and who care about you.
  • If someone wants to talk about your suicide attempt and nothing else, let them know that it helps to talk about other things too.

If it’s not working for you, let them know what you need from them. For example:

“What I need at this point is someone who can listen to me without telling me what I need to do.”

“I’d really appreciate it if we could talk about other things at the moment. I just want to get my mind off it.”

 

Talking about what has happened

You may or may not want to talk about what has happened or what led up to your suicide attempt. It is common to feel unsure, worried and even distressed about what to say to others.
When you are ready, it is important to talk about what has happened with people you trust. This allows others to be there for you and provides a chance to work out where to go from here.


When you are ready it is important to talk about what happened with people you trust.


 

If thoughts about suicide return

It is common for suicidal thoughts to return after your suicide attempt. It is not a sign you have failed or that you are not recovering. Recovery from a suicide attempt is about building strategies and confidence in managing thoughts about death and suicide if or when they return.

It is important to make sure you have thought about how you will respond if you become suicidal again.

Many people find that it is useful to prepare a safety plan. A safety plan is a series of steps that you follow if you start to feel suicidal again. Often a health professional will work with you to develop a safety plan, but you can also do one yourself.


looking after yourself_300x400

Looking after yourself and looking to the future 

Having connections to other people and things you find important can protect you against suicidal thoughts or make it easier to manage if such thoughts return.

It is not uncommon for people to feel disconnected from life and those around them leading up to a suicide attempt. Work with people that you trust to help identify ways to reconnect with things you find meaningful. This can be a good time to reconnect with the things that are important to you.


You may also find information from Guiding their way backfor people supporting someone after a suicide attempt, useful for yourself, family member or friend. There is also Finding our way back specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples after a suicide attempt. 

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:

Stay in touch with us

Sign up below for regular emails filled with information, advice and support for you or your loved ones.


All done! You should’ve received a confirmation email, so please check when you’re finished here and click the link in the email. If you can’t see it, we might be in your junk mail.

Subscribe failed. Please try later or contact us.