How can I help my husband after a suicide attempt?
After he got home from the hospital he was angry, then for a time wonderful. Now he is depressed and hopeless again.
Hello, and thank you for your question. This is a very serious time. I don't mean to frighten you, but you are right to be concerned. The time right after people leave the hospital after receiving psychiatric services is a time of high risk for suicide. It is very important, after hospitalization, to get follow-up care with a professional as soon as possible. If your husband has an established therapist, this is the time to call. It is also a good time to alert your support system of friends, family, clergy or others to let them know he is still struggling. This is good support for him AND you.
It is important to think about means and opportunity to make another attempt. Means really do matter. So, if you have a firearm in the home, it is really important to remove it. You can't remove all things that a person may hurt themselves with, but some things are more lethal than others. Firearms are very lethal. I am not sure what means he used last time, but try to reduce the opportunity for him to access it again. This is where your support system can help out. People can take turns hanging out with him until you are sure the crisis is over.
If you believe that an attempt is going to occur, talk to your husband about going back to the hospital. If he refuses, you will want to find out what your options are to have him go even if he doesn't want to. I know the thought of that really hurts, but it can save his life. Calling 9-1-1 is always a good option if you are not sure.
Usually a suicide crisis, meaning they want to harm themselves right now, lasts a few minutes, hours or days. Sometimes when you get them through the crisis stage, they no longer want to commit suicide. But, as you are indicating, that feeling of wanting to commit suicide can come back again. So, it is always good to have a plan.
If you want more information, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They will always answer: 1-800-273-8255. They can help you create a specific safety plan.
I do hope things work out alright. Be well.
Robin J. Landwehr, DBH, LPCC, NCC
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This is actually more common then we often realize, and actually understandable, as he has gone through a trauma, an unresolved existential crisis. He was taken care of by others and now is again left alone with his own internal, and rather horrific inner struggle.
In my work with CCT, or Contextual Conceptual Therapy, (see www.suicidetherapy.com) I have learned how trapped suicidal people are in their own isolation, also called a "mysterious isolation," a form of self protection which cuts the off from their Self, or spirit. And unless they address this message from their soul, accompany a guide on a journey to discover their own missing information, that is to recognize how their own uncomforted emotional pain has resulted in a coping stategy which has effectively cut themselves off from their own beauty, their Self, and their ability to receive love from themselves and others.
Their attempt to kill themselves is a cry from their soul or spirit that they cannot live the life they are living any longer. They take this literally and try to end their life, when in fact what their soul or spirit is saying is they need to begin to live the life they came here to live.
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I'm thankful to read your husband found care and that his suicide attempt wasn't successful.
While he was hospitalized, and prior to his release, your husband would've been provided in writing a self-care action plan. This typically includes things like committing to a contract 'not to harm' and what to do if he felt overwhelmed by his anger, depression, and hopelessness (e.g. call 911, call therapist, go to nearest hospital emergency department). Additionally, his protocol would've provided instructions for his taking medication(s) as directed, having a follow-up appointment(s) with his psychiatrist/psychologist/clinical social worker, and participating in some form of small group support.
If your husband's struggling as you describe, and you are feeling overwhelmed or frightened for his (your) safety, I'd encourage you to seek immediate assistance.
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- First and foremost, know that you cannot fix this for him, and get support for yourself.
- As much as you are able, make space in your relationship for him to talk about what he is experiencing. He might not want to talk, and that is ok.
- If he wants to talk, try to listen without judgement and without trying to talk him out of his feelings. Focus on validating his feelings and just sitting with him in his pain.
- Let him know how you feel...that you love him, that you care, that you are concerned, that this is scary for you too, that you are here.
I hope that this is helpful. On my website (www.sarahmcintyrelpc.com), I've written a series of blog posts about coping with distress. The techniques I've written about there may be supportive for you and your husband. Sending warm wishes your way.
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I appreciate that you are concerned about your husband's emotions and want to support him as best you can right now. I imagine that you must be going through your own difficult time too. You've had a complicated shock and trauma in your life and in your marriage; it's normal for both of your emotions to move from hope to despair to fear, anger, gratitude... there is no wrong way to feel and there is no particular pattern your emotions or his will follow.
Try not to assume what he is feeling but ask him instead. "How are you doing today?" is something that can be asked over and over again and your love and compassion for him will come through. If he has a hard time talking, you can share your observations. "I notice you're more withdrawn. This worries me." Certainly it will help you if you know what he's thinking and feeling because he hid his intentions to hurt himself. It's normal that you want to know.
If there is depression and hopelessness, this likely was part of what led to his initial despair. There is help out there. Depression is treatable, and seeking that treatment is important right now at this vulnerable time. This is the kind of complex situation that can be assisted by a therapist who is qualified to help you both understand and manage your emotions. Whether your husband seeks help or not, I hope that you do.
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The fact that you're reaching out for help here is really helpful.
The first thing I would suggest is that you consider seeing a local mental health professional yourself to be able to talk about the details, how this is affecting you, and how you can hold onto you are while also being supportive to you husband.
From the way that you describe this, I wonder what has changed since coming home from the hospital. Perhaps you can have a conversation with your husband this and mention that you are asking him questions to learn more about his experience and you can discuss how you notice that things were going much better when he came home from the hospital, and now things are not as good. Perhaps he can tell you about what is different so that you may know him would be most helpful to him.
I also hope that you husband is still continuing with his own treatment.
There may also be a local peer support telephone number for the county that you live in that they be able to help you determine whether your husband needs more immediate treatment if he is feeling hopeless again. There are national crisis telephone numbers listed below as well.
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Before I answer your question I want to cover some basics given that attempted suicide is very serious. I don't mean to scare you but I do want to be realistic with you. If a person attempts suicide once it is more likely they will try again. Men also succeed more often than women because they typically use a means that is more fatal. Here are some signs you can watch for:
- Threatening to hurt or kill himself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill himself; and or,
- Looking for ways to kill himself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
- Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
- No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
- Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
- Withdrawal from friends, family and society
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes
- Giving away prized possessions or seeking long-term care for pets
Now, in terms of ways you can help:
1. Ask if your husband is okay or if he is having thoughts of suicide
2. Express your concern about what you are observing in his behavior
3. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally
4. Reflect what he shares and let him know that his is heard
5. Tell him he is not alone
6. Discuss treatments available that can help
7. Guide them to additional professional help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
A mental health professional
A hospital emergency department
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Since as husband and wife your lives are closely joined, how your husband feels greatly influences the way you feel.
Give yourself some time to concentrate on how you've been affected by your husband's suicide attempt. Even if you decide against immediately telling him how you're feeling, knowing this about yourself will guide how and the topics you bring up with him.
Is your husband talking easily with you?
Do you have some ideas as to what is creating his feeling of hopelessness?
The ideal approach would be if the two of you are able to discuss what bothers him and what bothers you.
Depending on how far away you each are from such a position, you may benefit from speaking with a licensed professional therapist who can guide you and or you and your husband on opening up for discussion what feels stressful enough to merit taking one's own life.
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It seems like you are very receptive of your husband’s emotions and want to support him trough this time. But it is also important of being aware of your emotions. How are you feeling after the suicide attempt? It is common to experience negative feelings while you try to make sense of the incident. Feelings like anger, shame, guilt and fear are frequent; while, wanting to avoid, minimize and become distant from the person are parts of the defense mechanism to attempt a quick resolution. Once you understand and overcome those feelings you may be in a better position to help your husband; who may be experiencing some negative feelings as well.
First, it is important to have a safety plan in place, which includes removing harming objects from the home, knowing who to call if there’s a new attempt (either 9-1-1, or nearby treatment center), have a professional expert who monitors you and your husband’s progress, either a Counselor or mental health provider could help you manage negative feelings and identify ways to handle triggering situations.
Once the safety plan is in place, make him feel supported and not judged, saying open ended statements, like: “I am glad that you are here, please let me know what I can do to help you through this process”. Making small changes toward a healthier living may help as well. Exercising, eating healthier and practicing new leisure activities may be good ways to start. Also, explore your spirituality and your husbands, looking for ways to encourage each other by joining a support group or finding people who share your spiritual beliefs.
If you have more questions or concerns I offer teletherapy in the State of Texas, and traditional Counseling in Puerto Rico, call 787-466-5478.
¿Cómo puedo ayudar a mi esposo después de un intento de suicidio?
Después de que el llego a casa del hospital estaba enojado, luego por un tiempo maravilloso. Ahora está deprimido y sin ánimos.
Parece que estas muy atenta a los sentimientos de tu esposo, y que lo deseas ayudar durante este momento de su vida. Pero también es importante estar consciente de tus propias emociones. ¿Cómo te has sentido luego de este intento de suicidio? Es común que experimentes emociones negativas mientras los recientes sucesos hacen sentido. Sentimientos como coraje, vergüenza, culpa y miedo son comunes, y el querer evitar, minimizar o distanciarte son mecanismos de defensa igualmente comunes. Ya que comprendas y superes estos sentimientos, estarás en una mejor posición para ofrecerle ayuda, recuerda que tu esposo también debe de estar experimentando sentimientos negativos.
Es muy importante tener un plan de seguridad, esto incluye remover todos los objetos que pueden ser dañinos o facilitar un futuro atentado, saber a quién llamar en caso de una emergencia (9-1-1 o una clínica de emergencias cercana), tener un experto que monitoree tu progreso y el de tu esposo, puede ser un Consejero u otro experto de salud mental que te ayude a manejar los sentimientos negativos y situaciones retantes.
Ya que el plan de seguridad sea activado, crea un ambiente donde tu esposo se sienta apoyado y no juzgado. Utiliza frases abiertas para comunicarte, dile que estas feliz de que este contigo, y quieres saber cómo puedes ayudarlo durante esta etapa. También haz cambios pequeños para mejorar su calidad de vida como pareja. Hacer ejercicios, comer más saludable y compartir actividades puede ser un buen comienzo. Explorar tu espiritualidad y la de tu esposo también puede ser de ayuda, y encontrar personas o grupos que compartan esos mismos intereses puede ser una manera de mantenerse motivados.
Si tienes más preguntas o preocupaciones sobre el tema, ofrezco teleterapia en Texas y Consejería Tradicional en Puerto Rico, llama al 787-466-5478 para más información.
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