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15 Tangible Ways to Support Suicide Attempt Survivors

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

When someone you love survives a suicide attempt, it’s natural to want to help and be there for them. After all, meaningful social connections can be one of the most powerful ways to support people who struggle with their mental health. However, it can be hard to know what to say or do — and you don’t want to accidentally invalidate a loved one’s experience.

When you’re considering how you can best let your loved one know you’re there for them, make it personal. According to Shenell D. Evans, Ph.D., a psychologist in Brooklyn, New York, when someone you love is struggling, think about what really reminds you of that person, lets them know you care about their well-being and tells them they’re not alone.

“Thoughtfulness is key when it comes to gifts for anyone, anytime,” Evans told The Mighty. “I believe that we must address the multiple layers of sadness — cognitive, emotional, social, physiological and, for some people, spiritual.”

To find out what tangible ways you can best support your loved one after a suicide attempt, we asked The Mighty’s mental health community what kind gesture or gift would make them feel loved.

Here’s what The Mighty’s mental health community shared:

If you’re currently struggling with suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text START to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

1. Check-In Phone Calls

“Weekly or biweekly phone calls just because. I already feel like I’m always the one who has to make the effort, so someone else doing that would mean a lot.” — Katie S.

“A phone call just to check in. Don’t ask how I’m doing, tell me I’m important and you’re glad I survived. Help me to know there’s a reason I survived and people that care.” — Nicole B.

“A phone call checking in. Even weeks or months after the attempt. I still need support even though my attempt wasn’t yesterday.” — Lauren B.

2. Validation and Understanding

“Something someone could tell me, would be about forgiveness. I have never forgiven myself, and knowing others have forgiven me would mean the world to me.” — Andrea D.

“As a survivor myself I would say there’s no shame in having attempted to harm yourself. You did it out of feeling isolated, not from cowardice. Show yourself some mercy and find ways to understand that you are not alone. There are others who know why you made the attempt. And we stand with you because we are all human.” — Robin V.

“Not being called selfish because of it.” — Lydia D.

3. Reminders of Home

“My little sister came in [to the hospital] with a huge box of items from my room, all with sticky note labels. I still have them, ranging from ‘stupid homework illegally required of you’ to ‘books with words’ and other goofy notes. She packed me things she knew I liked at some point, like ‘Harry Potter’ books and things that were green. It made me feel better.” — Emily Y.

“While someone I love was in treatment, my family sent her a nice box full of encouraging and nice things like a mug with a nice saying, a tiny painting my daughter made, a drawing from my youngest, a card with a loving, supportive note signed by all of us, lip balm, lavender sachets and of course chocolate! I hope/think it helped her know that we are thinking of her, miss her, love her and want her to get better.” — Emily C.

4. Your Presence

“Just show up. And keep showing up. Especially after everyone else stops showing up.” — Erin W.

“Never giving up on them.” — Michele R.

“Just sit or lay with them. Don’t ask questions. Just listen. Just be present.” — Debbie N.

5. Providing a Friendly Voice

“Talking… Not necessarily about my struggles or whatnot, but about anything. There is nothing that means more to me than a friendly voice.” — Kelly K.

6. Small Reminders of Being ‘Seen’

“That small thing you know they love. Could be a pretty rock (me), a wildflower or the latest interesting article about the cosmos. It lets them know you ‘hear’ them when they talk about such things and also let them know you care.” — Katherine F.

7. Hugs

“One of those really big hugs where you just hold them tight. You can feel the love emanating from them.” — Jodie M.

“Sit with them and hold them so they don’t feel alone.” — Ragan S.

8. Encouraging Notes

“A little note saying, ‘I am always here and I am not letting you give up.'” — Atithi C.

“A jar containing folded notes of happy memories with that person, things you like about them and things you would like to do with them in the future.” — Howarth N.

9. Hand-Written Letters

“A letter just reminding me how loved I am.” — Jacquelyn L.

“I would love to receive a hand-written letter with nice words in it. Not necessarily compliments about me, just nice things that would remind me how life can be a little happier.” — Hamish S.

10. Flowers

“Flowers.” — Marilysa G.

11. Watching TV Together

“Someone to listen and validate my thoughts and feelings. Quiet quality time watching a funny TV show or movie.” — Caitlin C. 

12. Taking Care of Pets

“My friend came every other day to see me when I was in hospital because they cared and knew I didn’t have anyone else. They also took care of my service dog.” — Madison G.

13. Text Messages

“What saved my life once was a simple text message. It wasn’t even anything relating to my struggles. My partner was just telling me goodnight and instead of doing something bad, I just went to bed instead. That little gesture still rings in my memory and will forever keep me grateful.” — Justine E.

14. Snacks

“Bringing a non-judgmental listening ear (and snacks).” — Stephanie U.

15. List of Things You Love About Them

“A letter with all the things you love about them and why you need them in your life.” — Delia S.

“Let them know the things you love and appreciate about them.” — Hannah G.

Header image via VectorStory/Getty Images

Originally published: May 19, 2020
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