What can I do for suicidal dad?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My dad is severely depressed and continually shouts that hes going to kill himself. He has withdrawn from everybody and REFUSES to get help. He says hes a failure and spends all his time alone or complaining. He has lost it and I dont know what to do. Can you please help?

A: I think your dad may be asking for help in the only way he can. The symptoms of depression include feeling helpless and hopeless. He’s stuck. He doesn’t think anything can help but he hates how he is feeling. The result is that all he can do is complain and make threats to hurt himself. Do take those threats very, very seriously. At some point, the internal pain may be too much for him.

The treatment that is most likely to be helpful is a combination of talk therapy and medicine. It can take up to 4 weeks for medication to start to work so you need a counselor who can give your dad and your family some much needed support in the meantime.

It’s very difficult to get help for someone who doesn’t want it. But there is something you can do. Make an appointment for yourself to see a psychiatrist and counselor to explain the situation and to strategize how to get your dad in to see the doctor. Find out what your state’s laws are about involuntary hospitalization.

Then do whatever it takes to get him to an appointment. If he continues to threaten suicide and if your state laws support it, take him to an emergency room for a crisis evaluation. Sometimes it takes a call for an ambulance. I’m not making specific suggestions here. I’m only outlining possibilities. You need to work with the psychiatrist to decide what is best, given what you know of your dad and the limits of the law in your state.

Meanwhile, take care of yourself. You and other family members might want to see the counselor for your own benefit. It’s hard to stay strong for someone you love who is threatening to abandon you by killing himself. Even though your head probably tells you that you’re not responsible for his life, it’s hard to keep that perspective. It’s hard to keep telling someone you love that you love him when he rejects it. You deserve the support and guidance of an experienced counselor to help you get through this family crisis.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jan 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). What can I do for suicidal dad?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/01/19/what-can-i-do-for-suicidal-dad/