It sounds like you feel quite overwhelmed by these recent events, and quite unsupported by the mental health unit your sister attended.
Having worked in private psychiatric hospitals I would suggest the following immediately after discharge. (Ideally these things would have been done by the hospital/clinic). Have a suicide prevention plan with your sister. It is important to be as open about this as possible. Included in this plan should be the following:
- Knowing what her plan would be if she felt that way again. If possible remove those items or monitor them. eg if pills you dispense them, she doesn't. Sharps are a bit trickier, but razors are an obvious one to remove (this is all just for now, not forever).
- Have a list of phone numbers by the home phone and in hers and your mobile. Obviously 000 and LifeLine (13 11 14). Also add her GP, Community Mental Health Team, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Support groups such as GROW (www.grow.net.au), the local hospitals mental health unit. I would also add in her friends and families numbers. The family and friends numbers are there for social support, NOT for suicide prevention. ie she feels lonely and calls someone to just chat to, not about her problems, just stuff.
- Encourage (it is all you can do) her to engage with a psychologist (http://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist) and/or a psychiatrist. Get her a list of names and tell her that you will take her to one, though she should call them first to see if they “gel” (as an example).
- Encourage her to be somewhat social (she may only be able to call someone or be with people for up to 30 minutes at a time). Encourage activity and eating well (lots of complex carbs, and foods with tryptophan - dairy, soy, poultry, bananas). All these things aid in serotonin production which will help to stabilise her mood especially if she is on antidepressants.
- Encourage her to do small tasks. eg if you are doing some washing ask her to help hang it up and give her praise for her efforts. Incorporate her as much as possible, make her feel useful and needed.
- Be honest with her. Tell her that if you guys get worried you will be calling 000.
- Try not to nag/harass - encourage her.
- Look after yourselves. Take time out to enjoy/experience your life as well. If you guys burn out no-one gets better.
I realise that much of this may sound generic, however, the bottom-line is you cannot make someone do anything. But you can let them know that they are cared for, that they matter, that they have purpose, and that they need help that you cannot provide.
I look forward to hearing about the progress of your sister. I hope she is able to re-engage and improve, especially for her children's sake.
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