Goal 5: Alaskans Support Survivors in Healing

Goal 5

Goal 5


There is no one way to heal from loss.  There is no specific time by which someone should be "done grieving."  Grief is personal. Grief is unique. Grief is a process.

When we lose someone to suicide, we have so many emotions. We are sad, confused, shocked, angry, ashamed, guilty, lonely, depressed, numb, or some combination of these.  Shame and stigma might prevent us from seeking the same kinds of comfort we would if a loved one died from cancer or a long life.  Anger might prevent us from joining with others grieving our loss.  Shock and numbness might delay our grief until well after the usual sources of support have faded away.  Isolating ourselves -- or trying to relieve our pain with drugs and alcohol -- can deepen these feelings, or prolong them, making it hard to heal.

For people who have attempted suicide, many of these same feelings arise for them and their families.  Depression, confusion, anger, shame, and guilt can all be incredible barriers to seeking help and comfort in healing. 

This is why people who have attempted suicide, or experienced a loss to suicide, are more at risk of suicide themselves.  And so this is why supporting survivors in healing is an essential part of preventing suicide.


What can you do?


If you are a survivor of a loss to suicide, learn about suicide prevention resources and how to participate in suicide prevention efforts that support your own healing.

Survivors of a loss to suicide need their own forms of support and help. Just like with any grieving process, what a particular survivor needs can be as unique as the person. Survivors’ support groups are one way that people can find help, but there are others. Cultural activities, healing circles, therapy, or counseling – all are sources of support.

Not every community in Alaska has a survivors’ support group. In addition to formal survivors’ support groups, survivors can support other survivors informally. Whether it’s by reaching out through local suicide prevention coalitions or one-on-one, establishing informal networks, or incorporating cultural traditions to help healing, individuals can share their experiences and support ongoing healing.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has resources designed to help survivors of suicide loss.


If you are a suicide attempt survivor, follow up with your recommended mental health and/or substance abuse treatment and seek support from friends, family, and others.

Trying to forget or hide a suicide attempt can make it even harder to seek mental health services after an attempt.  This may be why the risk of suicide is so much greater among people who have attempted, even a year or more later.

It can be really hard to share what has happened, or to face people who might know what happened. You don't know what to say, and they often don't know what to say to you, either. Like you, they may be frightened, confused, or angry. They might refuse to talk about what happened, or say things that are not helpful to your recovery.  It's important to remember that your healing is your priority, and that you are not responsible for how other people work through their own feelings.

If you received emergency medical or psychiatric care after an attempt, you should have received referrals for follow up mental health care.  Make the call, schedule the appointment, and go.  If it's not a good fit, ask for a referral to someone else and try again. 

If you did not receive medical or psychiatric care after an attempt, you still need to seek help.  If you're not sure where to go, you can call Careline 1-877-266-4357 to find out what services are nearby. Or you can call the Alaska Mental Health Board at 1-888-464-8920 for help locating a treatment provider.

In addition to getting help from a mental health and/or substance abuse treament professional, you can take steps to care for yourself:

  • Create a SAFETY plan. This is something you develop to help you keep yourself safe.  You can indentify triggers and avoid them, remove access to means of suicide, and support your healing process.
  • Give yourself TIME to heal, just like you would give someone time to heal from a broken bone or heart attack. 
  • Take care of your BODY.  Eat healthy foods, exercise, try and get good sleep. 
  • Take care of your SPIRIT.  It takes courage and strength to heal from a suicide attempt.  Spend time with people, in places, and doing things that soothe and strengethen your soul.
  • Find a SUPPORT group or network.  Support groups for suicide attempt survivors are a relatively new concept, so there may or may not be one in your community.  Ask your therapist if there is one.
  • TALK to people you trust.  Your story is yours to share, and you don't have to share it with everyone.