My friend has repeatedly talked about killed or harming herself and has even tried it on one known occasion. She drinks and makes herself vomit. I would suggest that she talk to her parents, but they have hit her on more than one occasion and don’t take her depression seriously. She also has stated that she has no adults she can really trust and has trouble talking to a therapist. What can I do to help her?
A: When a friend does these things, it puts her friends in a terrible bind. My guess is that you want to keep her confidences but that you feel more and more worried about her. Once someone has talked seriously about suicide, you are no longer obligated to keep secrets. Quite the opposite. It is better to lose a friendship because you told than for her to lose her life. This is true whether a person is 14, like you, or 64 like me. Loving a friend means doing our best to give her a chance for a good life, not to cooperate with her self-destructive behavior.
What you should do now is figure out which adults can help. Perhaps your own parents can talk to her parents, for example. No? Then think about talking to the school guidance counselor or a teacher you trust who knows both of you. Another possibility is your pastor or rabbi if you have one. Adults have the ability to get through to her parents in a way that you and your friend don’t.
Your friend needs serious help. She thinks she can’t talk to a therapist but that’s assuming that all therapists are alike. We’re not. I’m absolutely confident there is a therapist in your community that she can connect to. Someone has to take charge and get her to try.
Please follow through immediately and get some adult support. Meanwhile, give your friend this phone number: 800-448-3000. That’s the number for the Boys and Girls Town National Hotline. Counselors are available 24/7 to help teens who are troubled and upset. It’s free. If you need some more support, you can call as well.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2011
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). My friend is suicidal and can’t turn to her parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/22/my-friend-is-suicidal-and-cant-turn-to-her-parents/