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How can I help my child after a suicide attempt?

Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health Specialist

The first thing to remember is that suicide is a very common symptom of bipolar disorder.
I’ve been suicidal off and on for 20 years. I used to be so scared of the symptoms and then one day I thought, wait a minute. I have these thoughts and every person I know with bipolar has these thoughts. There is no way it’s anything personal. It has to be about the illness.

It’s extremely important to remove any shame or sense of failure that may be attached to your daughter's suicide attempt. People who try to kill themselves don’t usually want to die. They want to end pain.

Here are some facts about suicide that may help you understand what happened:
You will notice that I don’t tip toe around words related to suicide. I am open and honest about the topic and you can be as well.

  1. Bipolar disorder has many, many symptoms. The two main symptoms are depression and mania. A person can be suicidal in both mood swings. In depression, it’s often a sad, weepy, hopeless and helpless feeling. Many women who try to kill themselves at this time are less likely to succeed. The mania called dysphoric mania can be exceptionally dangerous as the person is depressed and energized. This gives them the energy to follow through with a suicide attempt. It’s essential that you know what mood swing your daughter was experiencing at the time.
  2. Suicide can be very secretive. I’m amazed when I have thoughts of dying and yet no one, literally no one in my life would know what was going on in my head. In order to help your daughter in the future, make sure you observe if she talked about dying or if she simply tried without your knowing the signs.

Talk with your daughter openly, “We love you and know this had to be a terrible experience for you. We also know that suicide is a part of bipolar disorder and we are not upset with you and will be here for you when you want to talk. We are not going to hide what happened. We want you with us and in our lives. Bipolar disorder is strong, but you are stronger. We can treat the illness together. For now, let’s give you time to heal. We took care of your house and pets, checked your mail and made sure work is ok with your leave of absence. All is fine. Let us know how we can help you. We are here for you.” She will then need a management plan. She was obviously very ill. Life can change and get better.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.