please help me. i don't know what to do. my sister's attempted suicide a few times (the last one being today) and i don't know what else could be done to help her? i want her to heal so bad. i want her to be better. it's tearing me apart. she doesn't want to talk to a therapist and she won't talk to me.
Hi darling. I want you to know that feeling torn apart is completely normal, and I heavily sympathize with what you’re going through. I can see that you genuinely care about your sister which is crucial to help her. Suicidal behavior is a cry for help, but I want you to remember that you alone cannot save her and the recovery process takes a lot of time, persistence and patience.
The best ways you can help is by giving your support, listening, learning, and taking care of yourself. We want to reduce pain instead of increasing or prolonging it. Helping someone else also sometimes mean that we have to let go of our own egos, and what we think we know about suicide.
In Times of Crisis:
- Recognize the signs of suicidal behavior; talking about death frequently, giving away possessions, isolation from friends and family, sudden senses of calm, acting as if they’re saying goodbye, acting recklessly, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, etc.
- Stay with your sibling if you believe they’re in immediate danger. If you need to leave, have a trusted family member take over. If constant supervision is required to prevent suicide, it’s likely that your sibling needs to be in psychiatric care.
- Remove any and all things inside the home that can be used to harm oneself such as pills, knives, razors, guns, etc.
- Call the National Suicide Crisis Lifeline at any time for extra support (1-800-273-8255). If things get serious, call 911 immediately.
What You Can Do to Help:
- Avoid pushing, and avoid judgement. Your sister is going through an extremely tough time, Expressing anger, blame, guilt or pushing her can make the situation much worse. If your sibling won’t open up on their own terms, you can always tell them something like “I want you to know I am always here to listen to you, no matter what is going on. I would never criticize you for your thoughts or feelings.”
- Ask how you can help. Asking something as simple as “How can I support you better?” can open up the lines of communication and help start building trust. It can be really difficult for people to ask for things that they need, so I think it’s important to make an effort beyond what your sibling may or may not ask of you.
When my mother picked up some books for herself on how to support family members with PTSD, I cried with happiness. It showed that she cared about what I was going through, even though she didn’t understand it personally. My older sister even made the effort to be less judgmental, open to listening, and more supportive to me which I will always be grateful for. These two incredible women have shown me a new support system that has really helped me along my own recovery journey.
There are a ton of other ways to help such as: helping prep meals, giving simple and loving self care reminders, doing extra research to expand your own knowledge, helping with laundry, and even things as simple as spending quality time with your sibling like watching movies, going out together, etc, The effort you put in will not go unnoticed.
- Listen, show concern and appreciation. It’s not easy to talk about suicidal thoughts and the things that haunt us the most. When your sister is speaking openly about what she is going through, it’s important to be attentive. Give her every opportunity to talk about her feelings and burdens. Never rush the conversation, and know that asking questions such as “When did you start feeling like this?” is appropriate. Don’t forget to show appreciation. “I know things have been really tough for you, and I appreciate you being honest with me.”
- Reach out to a trusted parent. This part can be extremely difficult for both you and your sibling. It’s common to fear judgement or anger from adults. If your sibling doesn’t want to talk to a parent, offer to do it with them. Your sibling may ask you or even beg you not to say anything- but it’s important that you do.
If your sibling refuses, it’s a good idea to respectfully share your concern to a parent yourself. “I’m really worried about _____. They told me they’ve thought about killing themselves and we need to get them some help. I care about them and I am going to keep reaching out until someone takes this seriously.”
If a parent isn’t available or helpful, try reaching out to other close family members such as a grandparent, an older cousin or maybe even an aunt or uncle. School counselors, teachers, and doctors are other great options.
- Help create a crisis plan with your sibling, and maybe even your parents if you can. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers a free template online that you can print for free.
- Be willing to look for more support as soon as possible, and encourage professional help. Suicidal people are often afraid that trying to get help could bring more pain, rejection, involuntary commitment, etc. It’s actually quite normal for people to avoid professional help. Express how important she and her happiness is to you. “You feeling better is really important to me.” If your sibling decides to attend therapy, it’s crucial that you keep up the support throughout this time. It’s not over !!!
If your sibling does not attend therapy, it would be great to refer them to resourceful websites, blogs, recovery stories, forums, articles, etc. You may even be able to find free therapy group sessions in your area to attend with her if shes up to it.
- Encourage positivity, and stay hopeful about recovery. No matter how bad things are right now, recovery is always possible. Keep yours and her spirit up by saying things like “I will help you through this.”, “I know it’s so hard but recovery is possible for you.” and “I’m here for you.” Offering hugs is another quick way to make someone feel a little bit better if you two are comfortable with physical touch.
Self Care for You:
⦁ Take breaks when needed.
⦁ Make sure you’re taking care of your needs first.
⦁ Do not be afraid to ask for help.
⦁ Hang out with supportive friends; let yourself vent or have fun.
⦁ Practice self care activities in your spare time.
⦁ Take things one step at a time.
⦁ Self care while helping a friend
⦁ Self care for family caregivers
⦁ Weekly self care checklist
⦁ Custom self care checklist
⦁ 26 self care activities
⦁ 26 more self care activities
⦁ Self soothing techniques
⦁ 10 things not to say to someone who is suicidal
⦁ When you can’t afford therapy
You are such a strong and caring person. I’m sending you all of the love and support that I can through my little blog. I know things are really scary right now, but I believe in you and your sister. 💓