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Health Care Providers > Addressing Suicide > Responding to Attempted Suicide

What you can do

As a health care professional, you can help a woman attempting suicide just by being gentle and empathetic. Health care professionals tend to blame the woman when she brought to the hospital after attempting suicide. Most consider the case a nuisance. The fact that suicide is criminalized by the State, makes this even worse for the patient and she often says that that attempt was 'accidental' rather than suicidal. As a health professional, by being sensitive, you can provide space for the woman to reveal what led her to attempt suicide and help her overcome the situation. This could be done by referring her to counseling services which should be provided in the hospital. 

The effort of counselling in cases of attempted suicide is to provide knowledge and develop skills in problem solving and to increase the sense of self-esteem, belonging and worth in the woman. Counselling a woman has attempted suicide must start with placing the woman in the larger context of what has driven her to attempting suicide. The reasons may vary from sheer destitution to domestic violence, to a failed love affair, to failure in examination and need for long-term psychological help. Suicide prevention counselling needs to have an empathetic understanding of the woman's social reality. The counsellor has to look at suicide as a way of coping with an unbearable situation, or a cry for help. Hence a non-judgmental attitude is essential while counselling such a woman.


The counselling has to gear to helping the woman see that she is not alone, that support is available and counselling is her space to share whatever she feels like.  The counsellor needs to place before the woman what are the warning signs and how she should turn to someone for help if a feeling of attempting surfaces again. The skill in counselling lies in being able to communicate these different messages while providing her emotional support and also getting to understand her story without overcrowding the counselling session with too many ideas.


Some, women attempting suicide may alsosuffer from mental illness -moderate or severe.  We can say that the relation between violence and mental health is cyclical , abuse can trigger negative mental health consequence and  vice versa .These disorders may or may not be combined with facing abuse. In such a case, it is best to refer her to the psychologist and psychiatrist. It is important to have access to mental health status diagnosis procedure coupled with counselling. When the symptoms are under control, the counsellor could talk to the patient, which is very crucial.


For effectively counselling these women in the first session, following steps are to be kept as guidelines:

-Assessing the emotional state of the woman, whether she is in a frame of mind to talk.
-Details of the attempt, i e, type and quantity of poison consumption, precipitating factors for the attempt.
-Verbal expression of how the woman she expresses her guilt, frustrations and anger. 
-Assessing suicide risk. This can be gauged by assessing the lethality of the current attempt, any current suicidal ideation and eliciting history about past attempts. 
-Plan of action with the woman; finding her social support and helping her reconnect.


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