How Do I Ask For Help From My Loved Ones?
By Amy Cunningham, Psy.D., and Heidi Bryan, the founder of Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Council, a nonprofit organization based in Pennsylvania, after losing her brother Jeff to suicide. Heidi created the booklet, After an Attempt: The Emotional Impact of a Suicide Attempt on Families.
After a suicide attempt, you are now dealing with all of the problems that lead you to attempt suicide in addition to all the mixed emotions you might have in reaction to surviving your attempt. You need the support from your loved ones and professionals now more than ever. However, you are in an awkward position: you want to ask people for help, but you don’t want to scare anyone or just automatically be put back in the hospital.
Here are some tips for asking for help:
When you are telling someone you need help, let them know you are committed to safety and need some help to maintain the commitment.
An example might be: “Mom, I really want to keep myself safe and I’m feeling really depressed right now, do you think we could talk for a while?”
Be direct: It may seem very obvious to you that you are struggling and need help, but other people may not understand. Trying saying something like “I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to get a ride to my doctor’s appointment, could you help me?"
Make sure to ask a question and wait for a response: If you just say that you are having hard time, people may not realize that you are directly asking them to help you. The more direct you can be the less room there is for confusion.
Know the people in your support system
- Everyone has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. It is important for you to understand who in your support system is good at what.
- For example, maybe your father is really good at providing transportation or helping out with paying the bills, but not as good with just being someone to listen to you when you are upset. Try to match your requests from people with their strengths.
Set up a system for communication: Another way for you to communicate with your family and/or loved ones is to set up a system much like our homeland security system. If your feelings are approaching the dark yellow or orange stage, then you need to talk to someone about them. You can also create a numeric scale associated with the colors. For example:
Together you can work out a system that works for everyone. This way the other person knows when to offer help and you know when to ask for help. You can devise a plan where if you reach a level 5, for example, you will automatically go to someone and reach out for help. This system also allows you to monitor if things are getting better or worse and how to proceed.
Timing is everything: Remember to ask the other person if this is a good time for them to help you. When people are feeling suicidal, they tend to focus only on themselves and their situation and forget that other people may have a lot on their plate as well. They may not be available to help you at a particular time. That doesn’t mean they don’t love you or care about you. That is why it is so important to have more than one person on your support team. Responsibilities or events are going to come up for people that can’t be postponed. Naturally, if things are in crisis and you can no longer trust yourself to be safe that needs to be communicated. Most likely the individuals within your support will drop everything to help you. But the point of this book is to help you to not reach that point where suicide is imminent.
 (Bryan, Brophy, Cunningham, & Schwarz, 2006)
Often after an suicidal attempt, attempter survivors aren't sure what to do, nor are the people who care about them. The link below goes to a booklet that will help answer many questions about what to do after an attempt.
After an Attempt-American Association of Suicology