Support that saves lives

Suicide Attempt Aftercare

There’s tremendous power in ‘just being there’ and listening to a person in pain.

Anglicare’s Neale Apps provides specialised support to people who have recently attempted suicide. The weeks immediately after a suicide attempt represent a critical time for high quality care. ‘Aftercare’ focuses on keeping people safe and wrapping tailored support around them.

“It is a satisfying job,” says Neale. “A lot of the time people have attempted suicide because they had no hope and were desperate for some. I’m able to shine a light on that for them”.

Neale says many people have occasions when they feel their coping mechanisms are stretched to the limit. That’s when it’s important to reach out to others for support.

“Often people can identify situational things like a relationship breakdown, loss of a job, financial problems, drug or alcohol issues or gambling. But those things can be manageable if someone feels their suffering can be shared with someone else,” he says. “It is feeling alone in that suffering that is the major driving factor behind most suicide attempts”.

Anglicare provides intensive counselling support, particularly in the first 2-3 weeks following a suicide attempt.

“We ask about the driving factors that led the person to such a crisis, then figure out what tailored supports can be brought to bear” says Neale. “Whatever they need to make them feel they’re not in this on their own, we can arrange the relevant services and referrals”.  This collaborative model of aftercare includes safety planning, as people identify ways to reduce the risk of re-attempt. “These include activities they can use to calm themselves, friends and family they can reach out to, crisis lines they can call,” he says. “It’s about proactively putting a range of safety measures in place”.

Neale says the presence of supportive family and friends is also invaluable. “Being there for someone with thoughts of suicide is really important,” he says. Often people contemplating suicide deliberately isolate themselves, so connection with others helps to reduce the risk of re-attempt. “It is not about supplying a whole lot of good advice to them or anything like that,” he says. “It is about listening in a way that conveys you’ve really heard what the person tried to tell you. Sometimes that means exploring what it is that’s hurting. Sometimes just sitting in silence with someone can be enough”.

He says family and friends need to be aware of their own feelings as they care for a loved one.

“There are quite a number of emotions that can go through someone’s head when a loved one attempts suicide,” he says. “There’s shock, anger, bewilderment, sadness, people will often ask themselves ‘wasn’t I enough to keep them here?’ All of those emotions are natural and if you’re experiencing them make sure you’re well supported too”.

Tasmania has the second highest suicide rate of any state or territory. “Studies show that for every completed suicide there are between 10-30 suicide attempts,” says Neale. “That means there could be thousands happening in our communities each year”.

“Suicide prevention work is vital and so is excellent aftercare following a suicide attempt,” says Neale. “That kind of wrap-around support is effective in saving people’s lives”.

Crisis services:

Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800 www.kidshelp.com.au

Download Anglicare’s Attempted Suicide Aftercare Program brochure.

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