According to statistics, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US.
This shocking stat shows just how important it is to be prepared in the event that a family member or loved one takes their own life.
Discovering a suicide is a deeply traumatic experience, for which there are no words. The shock of it can easily paralyze one, and make it difficult to act.
However, there are a number of steps you need to take if a family member committed suicide. Keep reading as we outline what to do after a suicide at home in this suicide awareness guide.
1. Call the Police
The very first thing you need to do if you have discovered that a family member committed suicide is to call the police. In the event that the person is still holding onto life, emergency services may be able to save them.
Even if there isn’t a hope of this, the police still need to be notified by law.
2. Secure the Area
Once you have notified the authorities and the emergency services, you will need to secure the area. This is important for two reasons.
Firstly, the police will need to investigate the area. The space where the suicide took place must not be altered or tampered with. The police will want to document it to ensure that a crime did not take place, and any tampering will hinder their efforts.
Secondly, when a suicide or unattended death occurs, there is a risk of biohazards. Biohazards include bloodborne and body fluid-borne pathogens. Blood and body fluid-borne pathogens can include diseases such as HIV, COVID-19 and hepatitis B and C.
If traumatic injuries have occurred, this heightens the risk of biohazard contamination. However, there doesn’t have to be blood or visible body fluids present for biohazard risks to occur.
For instance, if some time has elapsed before the suicide victim was found, body fluids are likely to have escaped, even if they are not visible to the eye.
Because of this, it is critical that you and anyone else present limits their contact with the scene of the suicide. Understandably, if it is a loved one who has taken their life, it can be very hard to distance oneself completely. Especially if someone had to verify whether or not the family member was already dead.
However, make sure you make every reasonable effort to limit the risk of contamination and infection from biohazard pathogens by securing the scene.
3. Get the Area Cleaned
Once the initial aftermath is over, the next step you will need to take is to get the area cleaned.
This is not a task that you should undertake yourself. Firstly, cleaning up an area where a family member died at home can add to the vast trauma that you may have undergone.
What’s more, it’s also not safe. As mentioned above, unattended deaths and suicides open up the risk of biohazards. Because of this, it is physically unsafe for you to carry out a suicide cleanup yourself.
Instead, you should call in professional biohazard cleanup services. A company that specializes in biohazard cleaning will have all the necessary equipment to thoroughly sterilize the area without putting anyone at risk.
This is particularly essential if the suicide occurred within a vehicle. Vehicles are very challenging to sterilize, and usually require an intensive process, including removal of some of the finishes.
Take note that if the suicide took place within your home, your homeowners’ insurance scheme may cover some or all of the remediation costs.
4. Arrange for Accommodation
Depending on how extensive the area is where the biohazard cleaning company has to work, you might need to arrange for accommodation during the sterilization period.
Being away from the scene for a few days can also be beneficial for your mental wellbeing.
5. Get Your Loved One’s Important Documents Together
When it comes to what to do after a suicide, another important step is getting your loved one’s affairs in order.
Start by collecting together any important documents of the diseased. These include things like their social security information, their will, any loan documents, life insurance policies, vehicle titles, account statements, mortgage documents, etc.
6. Inform the People Who Need to Know
A hard but inevitably part of losing a loved one to suicide is informing the necessary people, including the deceased’s employer. This can often feel excruciating. If you can’t face the idea of having numerous conversations with all those who need to be informed, you might be able to draft a group communication that you can then personalize.
If having to talk about the suicide with lots of people is going to be difficult, make it clear that you won’t be responding to communications for a period.
7. Seek Help and Find Suicide Awareness Resources
Lastly, seek help as soon as possible. The suicide of a loved one is a horrendous experience, one which can deeply scar you.
This type of trauma warrants counselling and therapy. Although it will not erase the death of the one you lost, it will help you to work through the conflicting feelings that suicides trigger. Such as guilt and even anger.
There are also numerous suicide awareness resources available. Both for those left behind by suicide, and those on the brink.
Lastly, if you are reading this because someone close to you is showing signs of suicidal tendencies, there are hotlines you can call. One of these is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, on 1-800-273-8255.
Protect Yourself and Others
If a loved one has taken their life, it is important that you act quickly and know what to do after a suicide. Suicide awareness often caters to how to prevent suicide, but there isn’t a lot of info out there on what to do after the worst has already happened.
Besides calling the authorities, sterilizing the area where the suicide took place is one of the most important tasks. This is something you should under no circumstances carry out yourself. Instead, you will need to call in professional help.
Here at Spaulding Decon we offer biohazard remediation services and are open 24/7 so you can reach us when you need us most. Contact us at any time of the day or night and, providing you are within our service areas, we will be there to help you.