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September is National Suicide Awareness Month

Every year in the United States, more than 45,000 people take their own lives. The thoughts of suicide for an individual can be terrorizing. If you are in a state of hopelessness and feel that suicide is your only way out, please know that this is not the only way - and that help is available to you right now. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is another way! Hold on, and reach out.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 988 - the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can also text TALK to 741-741 to chat with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7.

Connecting with a person you trust can also help you. If you are struggling, it is ok to share your feelings. Copy one of these pre-written messages and send to a trusted contact.

​Reach Out

When you get a chance can you contact me? I feel really alone and suicidal, and could use some support.

Contact a Loved One

I don’t want to die, but I don't know how to live. Talking with you may help me feel safe. Are you free to talk?

Express Your Feelings

This is really hard for me to say but I’m having painful thoughts and it might help to talk. Are you free?


Every life taken by suicide leaves behind an estimated six or more "suicide survivors" - people who have lost someone they care about deeply. These survivors are left with their immense grief, and struggle to understand why it happened.

The grief process is always difficult, but a loss through suicide is like no other. This kind of grieving can be especially complex and traumatic. The death of a loved one is never easy to experience, but several circumstances set death by suicide apart and make the grief process more challenging to navigate.

Death by suicide leaves behind a traumatic aftermath. Death by suicide is sudden, sometimes violent, and usually unexpected. Recurring thoughts of the death and its circumstances - replaying the final moments over and over in an effort to understand - can lead survivors to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Suicide survivors unfortunately may experience stigma, shame, and isolation. Survivors may understandably be reluctant to acknowledge or disclose the circumstances of such a death. Survivors will likely experience mixed emotions - anger, rejection, and abandonment. "What if" questions are extremely common to arise after this kind of death. Survivors will have a need for reason after the event takes place. These questions can be self-punishing, and can often lead to unrealistic condemnation of the survivor for failing to predict the death or to intervene effectively on time.

For Survivors - There is Hope

  • Know that you can survive. Though you may feel like survival through this experience is impossible, you can. And you will.

  • The intense feelings of grief can be overwhelming and frightening. This is normal. You are not going crazy, you are grieving.

  • When feelings of guilt, confusion, anger, or fear come - know that these are common responses to grief.

  • You may even have thoughts of suicide. This as well is common, and this does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.

  • Forgetfulness is a common, but temporary side effect. Grieving takes so much energy that other things will fade in importance.

  • Grief affects our bodies physically. You may find that you are more accident-prone, that you get sick easily, and you feel fatigued.

Coping Strategies that are Proven to be Effective

  • As you ask, "Why?" know that there is no adequate answer that will satisfy.

  • Healing takes time. Allow yourself the time you need to grieve.

  • Grief has no predictable pattern or timetable. Though there are elements of commonality in grief, each person and each situation is unique.

  • If you can delay making major decisions, do so.

  • The path of grief is one of twists and turns and you may often feel you are getting nowhere. Remember that even setbacks are a kind of progress!

  • Expect setbacks and occasional painful reminders. Some days are better than others.

  • This is the hardest thing you will ever do. Have grace and be patient with yourself.

  • Seek out people who are willing to listen when you need to talk and who understand you may need to be silent.

  • Give yourself permission to seek professional help.

  • Do not take it to heart when people try to tell you what to feel and how to feel it. In particular, those who think you should "be over it by now."

  • Find a support group for survivors that provide a safe space for you to express your feelings, or to just simply be with other survivors who are experiencing some of the same things you are going through.


Harvard Health Publishing

Harvard Medical School

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