Surviving a suicide attempt can be an incredibly disorienting experience. You may feel anything from joy to despair over the fact that your effort to kill yourself did not work. Additionally, the circumstances of your suicide attempt may contribute to feelings of embarrassment, shame and social stigma. Finally, you may have caused physical harm to yourself that requires recovery. Here are a few tips to help you recover after a suicide attempt.
- If You Have Received Treatment. If you have been treated in an emergency room or other medical facility, find out what medications and procedures you have received. Ask for a copy of your medical records and take these with you to subsequent doctor or therapist appointments.
- If You Have Not Received Treatment. If you have done anything to your body to damage it, you need to seek medical treatment. If you overdosed, you'll be given blood tests, and may be given activated charcoal, which binds to certain drugs so that the body does not absorb them. A drug overdose can do severe damage to your liver so you absolutely need to follow up with a medical doctor, no matter what.
- If You Will Be Hospitalized. People who are believed to be at risk of trying to commit suicide again or who need immediate treatment for mental illness may be hospitalized. Adults have the right to refuse treatment, although a doctor has the option of involuntary committal if he feels that you may be a risk to yourself or others. The laws regarding involuntary committal vary from state to state.
- Therapy. Therapy will help you to develop new ways of handling your feelings of hopelessness and negativity. It is all-important that you find a therapist who is willing to be reached at all hours in the event of an emergency and who has worked with suicidal patients before. You should also have a good feeling about your therapist and respect his or her opinion. Make an appointment with a therapist immediately! Research performed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2005 suggests that those who have attempted suicide who then received a targeted form of cognitive therapy were 50 percent less likely to try to kill themselves again within the 18 months after receiving therapy.
- Develop a Safety Plan. After a suicide attempt, one's suicide risk is increased approximately 40 times. It's almost as if once the line has been crossed, it is easier to cross again. This is why you need a safety plan so that should you feel suicidal in the future, you can follow the steps in your plan. Draw your safety plan up with your therapist and include the name and contact information of people that you can call for help in case of suicidal feelings. Have several suicide hotline phone numbers in your plan in addition to those of your doctors, family and friends. Keep a copy of your safety plan in a place you can always find it.
- Develop a Support System. Find friends, family members, a support group or whatever support system you can muster so that in case you feel suicidal again, you have somewhere to turn. I know this isn't easy; lack of a support system may well be one of the reasons that you were driven to attempt to take your life in the first place. But it is an absolutely necessary step, and as you've learned, the stakes are high. Reach out to people who will be willing to support you during this difficult time. You can also find support online at a site such as Befrienders Worldwide.
- Get Back Into a Routine. Eat three meals a day, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, exercise regularly, and do whatever else you can to give your days inherent structure. Attempting suicide really throws your life into chaos and you need to do what you can to reestablish a sense of order. If you can integrate regular meetings with friends into your routine, all the better. What we're going for here is the end to feelings of chaos and isolation and the beginning of feelings of inclusion and routine. Only add activities on as you feel able; you will still need down time to recover emotionally, physically and spiritually.
The trajectory of your recovery is almost impossible to predict. Recovery is a combination of so many factors, including your ability to reframe your outlook, your overall physical and mental health, your social network and so on. But you owe it to yourself and those who love you to try your best to recover, and to heed the advice of the mental health professionals who are assisting you. Many people have gone on to live fulfilling lives after suicide attempts--people just like you.