How can I look after myself?
Supporting someone who feels suicidal can be really tough. Some people feel scared, some people feel drained and some people feel angry. In order to support a young person who feels suicidal and keep your own emotions in check, it’s important to look after yourself.
There’s no right or wrong way to look after yourself. After all – we’re all different. However, when supporting someone else it can be really important to take some time for yourself and ensure that at least some time during your day focuses on yourself rather than who you’re worried about. Below are some ideas as to how to
achieve what is undoubtedly a difficult balance when supporting someone who feels suicidal or living with someone who is suicidal.
- Look after yourself physically. Eat well and exercise. This seems to be the ‘go to’ for almost all of life’s concerns these days but it’s so important during times of stress to pay close attention to your physical health.
- Sleep! Hearing a loved one is suicidal can without doubt keep us awake at night. To be an effective carer for them – but equally to function yourself – you need to ensure you get plenty of sleep. If sleeping has become a problem speak to your GP for help. Your doctor can offer advice and guidance regarding sleeping problems; they can also offer medication on a short-term basis if necessary.
- Try to find time to relax. Of course, this is easier said than done if someone you care for is suicidal but being in a constant state of anxiety and stress will not help you or the person you’re supporting. It is not selfish to take time to look after yourself – it is essential.
- Be realistic and be empowering. You are not your loved one’s doctor, counsellor, nurse, teacher or mental health professional. You cannot fix all their problems and there are limits to what you can do. While there are many things you can do to help, doing your best to empower someone to help themselves is far better in the long run.
- Keep organised. Supporting someone who is suicidal can be like a rollercoaster with ups, downs, twists, turns and periods of real fear. When lost in these moments other parts of your life can, inevitably, be neglected. Try writing down jobs you need to do, thoughts which need your attention or things you don’t want to forget. This can be a great way of trying to keep on top of things but also a great way to get what’s in our heads down on paper.
- Ask for help. Experiencing thoughts of suicide can be incredibly isolating but so can supporting someone with these thoughts too. Many people find it hard to share with others what they’re going through as they don’t want to seem negative or lacking in perspective in relation to the person feeling suicidal. You can ask friends and family for help but you can also ask professionals for help too.
- Remember there is more to the person who you’re supporting than just their thoughts of suicide. Your relationships still remain a two-way street. Take time to remind yourself of the many things you love and cherish about the person you’re supporting.