What's on this page
- Leaving hospital
- Returning home
- Community support
- Online support
- Identifying your own support
- Looking to the future
Each hospital or health service has a process for discharging a patient.
There's usually one key nurse or social worker involved in preparing the paperwork, sharing information with family and friends, and organising follow-up appointments and/or referrals to community-based health services.
If you feel rushed, ask for more information before taking the person you care about home. Ideally, a meeting with the person returning home, their support network and hospital staff should be organised, so everyone involved has a chance to contribute and understand the support plan.
However, the time the person spends in hospital can be very brief (often 24–72 hours), which can make this kind of in-depth meeting difficult to arrange. Unfortunately, it's not always possible for hospital staff to liaise appropriately with carers, families and friends before discharging patients.
Taking home someone you care about after they’ve attempted suicide can be a time of mixed emotions.
You may feel confused, angry, and worried about their mental health and whether they will make another attempt. You may feel overwhelmed and scared by the amount of support they need.
If the person you care about already has a psychologist or psychiatrist, or if they are referred to one when they’re discharged, make a plan for them to go to an appointment as soon as possible.
GPs are often a good place to start when seeking help in the community.
You can make an appointment to discuss the best support options for both of you, even if the person you care about has a referral from the hospital.
If they haven’t received a referral, but you think it would be helpful for them to see a mental health professional, talk to them about it. Clearly explain why you think it’s important, offer to help them to find someone and/or take them to an appointment.
The person needing mental health care support needs to choose for themselves to engage professional help. You can’t force them. Trying to might actually make them less likely to accept help. However, you can continue to gently remind them how extra support will help.
Familiarise yourself with what support is available if you aren’t given this information by the hospital. You can contact your GP for more information or simply google ‘mental health + (insert the name of the region you live in)’
There might be limited access to services, especially for people in rural and remote regions of Australia and some services may have waiting lists.
When the person you care about comes home, give as much consideration to your own support and care needs as theirs.
Gather information about where you can both get the assistance you need in your local area. Once you know what is available, you can begin to build your network of support.
The stigma around suicide is a very real issue. People may respond differently than they would to other health issues.
Try to build a good support network comprised of people who understand the situation well.
‘It was a bit difficult at the start but those who had known him for a bit, tended to understand and just let me talk, just said ‘you’re doing well’. You know, just a little bit of reassurance that’s enough to keep me going.’
Here are some of the services that can support you and the person you care about:
Health and allied health services
- A general practitioner (GP) can provide you with advice and referrals to local services, and work with you on a mental health care plan.
- Community mental health teams — the person you care about may be allocated a specific caseworker or at least a primary contact person.
- Private practice counsellors — for example, psychologists, mental health social workers, psychotherapists, and so forth. Your mental health care plan allows you to access ten subsidised sessions.
- Psychiatrists — doctors who specialise in mental health diagnosis and treatment. Psychiatrists and GPs are the only professionals who can prescribe medication.
- Age-specific services — for example, child and adolescent mental health services, headspace, or aged care services that specialise in mental health issues.
- Culturally-specific mental health services — for example, transcultural mental health or health services focussed on specific ethnic groups.
- Mental health services provided by Aboriginal community-controlled health services.
- Gender or sexuality-based health services.
- NDIS mental health service providers.
Other support options
- Mental health organisations that provide social support in your local area – for example, Mind and Neami.
- Carers Australia local divisions.
- Local carer support groups.
- Peer support services, such as Men's Shed.
- Mental health consumer advocacy organisations, such as VMIAC (VIC), Being (NSW), and CoMHWA (WA).
- Religious organisations.
- Your own friends and family.
- Workplace support – for example, employee assistance programs (EAP).
- School counsellors and broader school wellbeing staff.
‘Now that my husband is getting other supports (being directly counselled to manage his suicide ideation tendencies, seeing a psychologist for counselling, and his medication is more appropriate) a great deal of burden has been lifted.’
Self-care that might work for you: getting your hair done, having a massage, a coffee with a friend, social or support groups that might take your mind off the stress. Support can sometimes come from the most unlikely places.
Online support is easy to access, usually free and especially helpful if you are geographically or socially isolated.
The following organisations offer services to both people who have attempted suicide and their carers, family and friends.
The SANE Help Centre is staffed by qualified counsellors who will provide you with brief phone and online counselling, support, information and referrals. You can reach our team by phone on 1800 18 7253, or email and web chat 10am–10pm Monday to Friday AEST.
The SANE Forums provide a supportive environment to connect with others, open 24/7. It’s moderated by mental health professionals, but the real support comes from connecting with one another.
- Lifeline (includes a pilot text-based support service) — 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline — 1800 55 1800
- MensLine — 1300 78 99 78
- 1800 respect — 1800 737 732
- Care Gateway Counselling service — 1800 422 737
Other online support services
There is no right or wrong way to get the support you need.
Choose what is right for you right now, and reassess from time-to-time to make sure it’s still the support you need.
‘I belong to a carers’ support group, and I go to an exercise physiologist five days a week for 45 minutes. This is what has kept me sane, and I have a great GP!’
Support options checklist
- How do your cultural, financial or spiritual needs influence the kind of support most helpful for you?
- You’ll receive a lot of well-meant information and advice from others. Take control of all these snippets by dividing them by what is ‘useful right now’, ‘interesting but not useful, or ‘thoughts for the future’.
- Make strategies for getting through the bad days. Going for a walk, calling a friend, writing down your thoughts, or just practicing some self-compassion can help.
After the initial crisis has subsided, your relationship with the person you care about will develop and change. You might be worried that you will upset them and make their mental health worse. They might prefer to avoid some conversations. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them; you just need to bring them up in a way that works.
Difficult conversations might be important for ensuring you can support the person you care about while also looking after yourself. Here are some conversation starters:
- If we get in this situation again, what will we do?
- What’s okay to ask?
- What support do you need from me?
- If I’m not available, who is the next best person to contact?
- If I start to get worried about you, how can I create space to talk?
- If you need more support in the future, how will you let me know?
‘The person I supported is now closer to me and that is OK – that closeness is based on trust, and moving in the work and friendship spaces.’
As time passes, you might start to wonder what the future looks like.
You may be concerned about future suicide attempts and the distress they would create for you and your family. This is a normal reaction. It’s not unusual for feelings of exhaustion, sadness, anger, guilt, frustration, as well as hope to cycle through your mind.
You may have heard the term ‘ripple effect’ used to describe the impact of suicide attempts. As a carer, you may feel particularly distressed by the attempt and the actions you had to take: dealing with emergency services, rushing to a hospital, informing the person’s loved ones.
If you witnessed the attempt, you may also be experiencing trauma and post-traumatic distress. Typical reactions to trauma can be found on our factsheet on traumatic events.
‘You're at that point where you’re treading on eggshells, and you’re judging the mood. How much you’re going to pry, you don’t want him to run away and pack his bags and go.’
It can be hard to predict how you will feel after the immediate crisis is over.
Carers often feel hyper-alert and 'on surveillance’ when the person they care about returns home, constantly checking where they are and what they are doing. This can make it hard to decide the best support options for both of you.
You may feel grief and loss, anger, or gratitude that the person you care about survived and will get the support they need. You might even feel some loneliness after the initial busy-ness subsides and support seems less available. You could feel all of these things at different times, or just a few now and then.
Here are some suggestions for managing your emotions:
- Decide how much information you need to support the person you care about. Contact the person's other support people and services and ask them to keep you updated if this is possible. Some people find more information helpful while others need to know only the minimum.
- Seek help to adjust to your ‘new normal’ of life.
- Understand your emotional needs. Your own mental health may be affected and any previous traumas can resurface. If you have a history of your own mental health issues, keep an eye on any signs that they might be returning. Ask your friends and family to also watch out for signs you need more support.
- Reflect on your moods, the ways you react to situations, and any triggers you have, so you can monitor your own behaviour and know when to reach out for support.
- Be clear about where your boundaries are and how much support you are able to give the person you care about. Make sure the level of support you provide doesn’t impact on your own mental health.
If you are supporting someone who has attempted suicide more than once, you can find more information in our section on repeated suicide attempts.
The support you offer shouldn’t harm your own mental health.
You may feel like your needs come at the end of a long list, but you deserve self-care and support too. It will be helpful for both of you in the long run.
Looking to the future
Mental health issues, the impact of trauma and the recovery journey can be life-long experiences, but there is hope. The vast majority of people who attempt to take their own lives do go on to recover.
When someone you care about has attempted suicide, you might experience difficult thoughts and moods in the early days of their recovery. You might not feel hopeful for a positive future as time passes. Hope is hard to maintain when you’re exhausted and stressed, so self-care to reduce those things helps you find optimism.
Long term strategies for your own self care
- Remind yourself that self-care strategies are not selfish.
- When you are supporting someone who has attempted suicide, it can sometimes feel like there is no visible end point to the hard times, but you won’t always be faced with crisis.
- Accepting the ups and downs of hope, hopelessness and hope again can enhance your wellbeing. Feelings pass, and your hope will return.
- The stress of caring for someone in this situation is real and it’s okay to talk about it. Find people who allow you to discuss your thoughts and feelings honestly and without judgement. Connect with people who have had the same experience.
- Talk to your GP about finding a counsellor through the better access to mental health care scheme. They can help you process trauma, especially if you witnessed a suicide attempt.
- Connect with community services for support.
‘We made a repertoire of strategies that could be employed either every day or every week. If you didn’t do well, you could identify which strategies you might do, like good nutrition, good exercise, sunshine, and outings. Good things you can create in your own life.’