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what happens after a suicide attempt

What Happens After A Suicide Attempt: How To Help

by | Sep 2, 2016 | Mental Health

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, creating awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, promoting resources, ways to help others and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm. We welcome guest blogger, Steve Johnson, Co-creator of PublicHealthLibrary.org, who shares his insights on what happens after a suicide attempt and ways educators can help a student who has attempted suicide return to school.

What Happens After a Suicide Attempt

As an educator, it’s always difficult to see a student in trouble and not be able to help them. One of the most traumatic experiences — for students and teachers alike — is when a young person attempts to take their own life. You may have feelings of guilt because you couldn’t see the warning signs, or you might feel angry at the lack of compassion from the people in the student’s life. Classmates are affected by the near-loss of a friend, while others stir up the gossip about the student and make things harder for their return.

It’s hard to know where to begin when a student returns to school after attempting to take their own life, but it’s important to try and make their time in class go as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the best tips for helping a student who has attempted suicide get back into school life.

Be Flexible

It can be difficult to strike the right balance; on one hand, you need to give the student time and a little leeway to get assignments done and to catch up, but on the other, you’ll need to let them know that you expect good work from them. If you don’t set expectations, it can be harder for the student to figure out goals or feel any sort of structure in their days, which can work against them. Sit down with the student and talk about upcoming assignments, tests, and projects and offer your help in getting organized. Different students have varying needs in order to be successful.

Keep Up Communication

Be sure you ask the student–and their parents, if applicable–about what to do regarding the conversation surrounding the suicide attempt. This is not only for the student’s sake, but for counselors and other teachers. If the family wants to keep it as quiet as possible, take steps to make sure no one else knows. Rumors can spread quickly, especially in a school environment. If they are okay with a select group of people knowing about what happened, find out how they want to address it. Make sure the student is comfortable with it all.

It’s also important to talk to the student about how much they share with other kids about their attempt. Not only can it be detrimental to the survivor, it could create false ideas about suicide for the other student, especially if they have had suicidal thoughts themselves.

Know The Warning Signs

For those who have attempted suicide, the chances of another attempt are very high within the first couple of months or so afterward, so it’s important to know the warning signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as signals that might tell you they are struggling with substance abuse. Some of the signs include a marked change in behavior, wild or manic mood swings, suddenly getting into trouble, experiencing a sharp drop in grades or performance, and a sudden dramatic change in appearance. Physically, substance abuse is sometimes marked by unfocused or bloodshot eyes, strange odors on their breath or clothing, and disinterest in any activity.

If the student is displaying any of these behaviors, talk to their parents immediately and let them know you’re concerned. If they seem to be in imminent danger, call for help and don’t leave them alone.

Remember that there is only so much you can do after a suicide attempt. As an educator, you may feel compelled to go beyond the call of duty to help your student, but sometimes a trained professional is the only person who can truly help.

Photo via Pixabay by Magalyphoto

Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student. The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.

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