Life 2.0: How Do Survivors Cope With Life After A Suicide Attempt?

clock 7 Min Read

Brencia Daphne

10th September 2021

TRIGGER WARNING: This article talks about sensitive issues like suicide and self-harm.

Imagine you are falling into a dark abyss and no matter how much you try to scream, there’s pin-drop silence. It is just you and the last breath left in your body. Every inch of your body aches as you fall. Unlike Icarus, you never got to fly high and reach your potential.

In this engulfing darkness, there's a sudden flashback of what your life looked like — every moment you lived and every moment you wished you didn't. Amidst the chaos, there's one wandering thought; what if there was a future? What if...

You open your eyes as if waking from a deep meditative state, to find your family/friends lamenting, in remorse and full of pity (for you and themselves) for never being able to fully understand you.

What would you do if life gives you a second chance?

Humans of Bombay featured a story of a lady who attempted suicide, only to find her true identity and purpose in life.

Not just common folk, but celebrities like Sushant Singh, Jiya Khan, Kurt Kobain, and Robin Williams have all been victims of suicide. Kailash Kher, a renowned Bollywood singer disclosed that he too is a survivor. Tired of facing troubles like financial crisis and lack of support in the industry, he thought of seeking final freedom in death. There have been both cases of negative and positive change found in the survivors.

A Word From The Survivors

While some people fall prey to the temptation of suicidal ideation thoughts, some victims report that they regretted taking the drastic step mid-way through the act, like these Reddit users:

User I
“I sat in the bathroom and just thought about my life for over an hour. Thought about the people I would miss. Thought about the people that would miss me... I went to slit my wrist, placed the knife against my wrist and... My phone started to ring. My best friend, the most important person in my life, was calling me at the exact moment I was going to end my life. I was in shock… I didn't know what to do, so I started crying. I couldn't stop myself… My friend saved my life that night and not a day goes by where I don't talk to him.”

(Reddit user: Dr.shadow)

User II

“I knew my dad kept a 9mm Glock pistol in a CD case. I went inside my enclosed tarp area and stood there with the gun in my hand for maybe half an hour before I put the gun to my head.

I remember thinking about how I'd miss my dog, and that I didn't want to die anymore.”

Fortunately, this human survived the shot as the bullet just grazed him. On waking up he felt grateful and understood the importance of life. This was his second “shot”.

“I was so happy to be alive, my life practically had flashed before my eyes, and I realized that everything I felt was weighing me down was fixable and not a big deal. I told my parents that I had taken a hard fall and hit my head, and till this day no one knows that I tried to kill myself. To anyone out there considering killing yourself: It's not worth it. You are worth something, and any problems you have can be helped or fixed.”

Gathering from different perspective pieces written by survivors, we found a few common signs and thoughts that surround a suicidal person.

  • Feeling of being a burden on loved ones.
  • Feelings of inadequacy.
  • Feeling unwanted.
  • Suicide is not a singular decision, it is the last option.
  • There are dropped hints, but no direct request for help.
  • The intention is not attention-seeking, but to avoid that haunting voice within.

This aforementioned spectrum of emotions not only colours the life of the survivor but even of the people in his close circle. This brings us to the question —

How To Help Suicide Survivors Cope With Life?

There are two situations, you may find yourself in:

  1. Tending to the survivor immediately after the failed attempt.
  2. Tending to the survivor sometime after the failed attempt.

Being The Band-Aid On Fresh Wound:
(Tending immediately after an attempt)

We are in a time where we are flooded with news and information about the Coronavirus from all around us, and it sure can get overwhelming. Even though it is important to be updated about the issue in order to take the right precautions, try and limit how much you take in every day. You could try and have an hour or two out of the day where you put your phone down, restrict any information, and focus on yourself. Or, seek information updates at specific times during the day. Also, make sure you get information from reliable resources; misleading information can lead to unnecessary panic in an already panicked world.

  • Call the nearest hospital/emergency helpline and do not get too involved.
  • Take the survivor to a safe space and try to pacify them.
  • Do not ask them “why” questions.
  • Try to use neutral terms.
  • Do not express strong emotions when addressing the situation and do not be intrusive.
  • Try to be engaging and do not leave the survivor alone.
  • Try to listen, this is not about you but all about them.

Sometimes, you might not be in a space to handle this. When you feel too overwhelmed, try to relay this to the person.

Try not to directly reject them, but give them support in a way that you are capable of doing so. Sometimes witnessing somebody having suicidal thoughts can be triggering, please prioritise your life. You cannot help your friend properly if you are in murky waters yourself.

Being The Long-term Support:
(Tending as a caregiver after a few days/months from the last attempt)

  • Acceptance And Patience:
  • It may take a while (or longer) to get them out of their shell, but trust and patience are your biggest aides.

  • From Intrusion To Creating Safe Space:
  • Maintaining space and ensuring privacy does not only help ease the tension but also shows that you trust the survivor.

  • Inclusivity And Loneliness:
  • Actively engaging / interacting with the survivor reduces the chances of them spiralling into the dark corners of the mind, contemplating negative thoughts and taking drastic steps.

  • Healthy Lifestyle:
  • Suffering from a loss of zeal to live — the survivors need a healthy diet or exercises to adopt a routine that boosts endorphins, relieves stress and helps in maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Remember: Your well-being is as important as the survivors

You might be going through the same intensity of emotions (and even, added guilt) as the survivor. Do not neglect your mental health and prepare yourself for the road ahead.

Do not hesitate to reach out to a therapist and start your healing — as the trauma may hinder your caregiving abilities.

Therapy As A Stepping Stone:

In a recent report launched in June 2020, WHO found:

  • Suicide made up for one in every hundred deaths
  • The death toll by suicide reached a massive 700, 000 (per year)
  • A prior suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for suicide in general.
  • Suicide is the fourth major death factor amongst teenagers around the globe.

In trauma cases like suicide, therapy is not just the end goal, but a starting point. Therapy not only provides the survivors with a safe space to confide in but also gives better stability and clarity to caregivers.

A testimonial of our client proves the same:

“I was going through a tough time last year when I started therapy. I was in an abusive relationship and had been hurting myself for a long time. My friend booked a session for me after she found out I have been looking up ways to die. This was my third time attempting. Past attempts were back in my hometown and there’s not a lot of awareness on mental health there.

Therapy really helped me focus on myself and heal from past trauma. It was not easy, and a lot of times I would have panic attacks at night. With time, therapy helped me accept my wounds and care for them. It also helped me respect my body, my mind, and draw boundaries.

I do have bad days — some are worse than others. But I cope with it much better now. My friends have been extremely supportive and caring through the journey and have respected my boundaries. My friend who booked the session for me, kind of saved my life."

Our in-house psychologist, Jyoti Das states,

"Suicide doesn’t happen instinctively, it is accompanied by other mental illnesses, triggers or even accidents".

She also pointed out that for a person who is suffering from suicidal thoughts, it would be tough to cope. In these instances, friends, spouses, family members or colleagues should be supportive in any way they can and help them book a session with a mental health professional if the person themself has not booked one yet. Please remember, this is as serious as any other physical ailment.

If you don’t know how to support your friend when they are suffering from any kind of mental health concern, you can visit our “Help A Friend” section on our website to gain some insight. You can also Book A Session for your friend/ family members from our list of experienced therapists.

Always remember, no problem is worth taking your life over.

Your life is a precious gift, not only for you but also for your loved ones.

Take care of your mental well-being and don’t forget to Heart It Out!

-Written by Nishtha Nautiyal, edited by Priya Darshini Dawn and Brencia Daphnie for Heart It Out

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