8 Comfortable Things to Say to Someone Who Just Attempted Suicide
We recently blogged about how you can react if someone you know has recently attempted suicide. However, we thought you might benefit from some more direct things you can say when you see someone who has recently attempted suicide. Read these, think about them, rephrase if need be, and hopefully you’ll feel more prepared.
1. I am so glad you’re still with us.
This phrase shows how you feel about the situation in a positive light. It can be hard to let go of your fear and frustration after getting news of a suicide attempt, but it’s important to express your love for the person who attempted and make that known.
2. I appreciate you letting me come and see you.
They likely feel vulnerable just like you do. They may have had no plans for after an attempt because they had no idea that it wouldn’t work. However, a simple show of appreciation can be a good ice breaker.
3. You bring a lot of meaning to my life.
This is another phrase that works well with keeping the conversation on how you feel rather than a criticism on their choices. Hopefully this phrase, or something like it, will also be a way to help them shift their perspective and realize that they do bring something important to the world.
4. I would be devastated if you were gone.
This one can be tricky depending on your relationship with them. If they’ve ever complained that you emotionally hijack them, or if they seem to react strongly to you when you express strong words like “devastated’ then this might not be for you. But if you are the type of person who doesn’t express yourself emotionally very often, this might be the type of thing they need to hear from you.
5. How are you feeling now?
This is a good shift to make an attempt to connect with them. They might not want to open up right away- or at all- but if you ask and they respond, please remember to listen and empathize, even if that’s a challenge for you. If you want to rephrase it, be sure to think about if this is an open or a closed question. An open question invites them to offer more information than just a “yes” or a “no.” A question like “are you doing okay?” is likely going to be a dead end.
6. Do you have plans to try again?
This is incredibly important. Hopefully your family member or friend has received some kind of professional help and this has already been addressed. But if you aren’t sure, it’s okay to ask. Most research indicates that asking someone if they have suicide plans does not increase the chance that they will try again.
7. I’d like to see you more often, can we make a plan to (go to coffee once a week, dinner once a month, etc.)
Be sure to pull out your phone or planner to show you are serious. Making a plan to connect with each other regularly will help them recover and give you assurance that they are on a good path to recovery. Making plans is also a great way to lift the emotional burden of the “checking in” process. Without plans, you’ll have constant nagging feelings to make sure they are doing okay but have no definitive way to make sure that happens. When you have plans, it’s easier to feel at ease that you’ll get the chance to assess their situation at a set time.
8. Can I (do your dishes, make you dinner, take your dog for a walk, etc.)?
This is also a tricky one. I am not a person that would like someone to come into my house and start cleaning. However, I have children and if I were in crisis I would love someone to invite them over or offer to take them to get ice cream. Simple acts of kindness are ways you can show that you not only are interested in their well-being but actually feel compelled to help care for them while they relearn how to care for themselves.
These 8 phrases and questions will come in handy. Not just for a friend who has attempted suicide, but any friend who seems to be in crisis. Obviously, you should be genuinely interested in hearing their answers, or in following through with any planning, but simply opening a conversation and starting with an appropriate question sets a better tone for a conversation they might be hoping to have with someone.
As always, I like to reiterate that you don’t have to be their therapist. You don’t have to offer new perspectives or tell them how to conduct their life from here on out. You can listen and empathize, and you’ll be surprised how they are ready to start healing without someone directing it for them. However, it also never hurts to ask them if they have considered professional help from a counselor and even offer to help by making the first appointment. Ultimately, this is their decision, so attempting to force it is going to backfire and you may lose their trust.
If you or someone close to you is in crisis, be sure to have this number in hand:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline