They are your neighbour, your family member, colleague or your friend.
They are one of thousands of Nigerians affected by suicide every single day.
They are courageous, brave, and strong.
They are suicide attempt survivors — and they have something they want you to know.
Supporting a suicide attempt survivor can be scary. When you know that someone has been pushed to the edge before, you might wonder what’s stopping him or her from doing it again. The truth is, your support can play a role in steering attempt survivors down the road to healing and keeping them on the right track. The first thing you need to remember is that these survivors have fought their way back through the darkness and, in this moment, are making the choice to live. Honour that choice by acknowledging that they want to be here and realize that what they’re doing by talking about it, is finally giving themselves permission to ask for help. If you know someone who is at risk of suicide and you’re looking for ways to offer support, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Suicide is NOT a bad word. It’s not gross. It’s not shameful. It is something that happens, and if you’re talking to a suicide attempt survivor, it’s something that happened to them. The importance of talking openly about suicide is vital in supporting suicide attempt survivors. Providing an honest, and welcoming space where suicide isn’t considered taboo is necessary in order for attempt survivors to comfortably share their feelings and experience. As one survivor of suicide reveals in an article on Everyday Feminism: “When we don’t have healthy, compassionate conversations about suicide and survival, we ultimately discourage survivors from seeking out support.”
According to former CASP board member Yvonne Bergmans, one of the most important things to remember when supporting a suicide attempt survivor is patience. Suicide attempt survivors may need different things at different times. They might want to be surrounded by people one day, yet choose to spend the next in total isolation. It sounds confusing, and remember that they are doing the best they know how to in that very moment, and remind yourself that in the life of a suicide attempt survivor, living moment to moment is a pretty big deal. Respect their decisions and check-in frequently to see if they could use a friend. Also keep an eye out for the warning signs for those at risk of suicide.
Don’t feel as if you have to dissect the reason behind an attempt (that’s where professional help comes in), or offer solutions. According to one suicide attempt survivor who shared her story onLiveThroughThis.org, during her most trying times a lot of people would say things like, “What do you have to be depressed about?” to which she responds that depression doesn’t need a reason — it just is. Accept that you may not fully grasp what’s going on inside the head of a suicide attempt survivor, and accept that that’s okay. You don’t have to understand, you just have to be there if and when they choose to open up about their experience. At that point, be sure to listen to what they’re saying and tune in as they’re telling their story.
One of the biggest challenges faced by suicide attempt survivors is the stigma they have to face on their way to find help. Telling someone you attempted suicide is hard enough. Hearing that it was selfish to try in the first place certainly doesn’t make it easier to open up. Survivors of suicide attempts need compassion, not judgment. They need support as they navigate their way through the abyss of stigma, shame, guilt and stereotypes that surrounds suicide. The suicide attempt survivor from Everyday Feminism wants everyone to understand that the decision to end one’s life is not one that is taken lightly and is “not indicative of a character flaw, rather of immense pain that we have carried for too long.”
So, what is the message that suicide attempt survivors need to hear? “You are worth life. You are worth living. You are worth breathing. You are worth having children. You are worth going to college. You are worth telling jokes. You are worth writing poems. You are worth your life.” You have a right to live.