Seriously Depressed Boyfriend

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 17 and I have been with my boyfriend for about 9 months now. And he has been battling severe depression for many years. It’s constantly fighting against him, and makes it hard to have discussions about our relationships because it just consumes him and leaves me to have to abandon the problem to help him build himself up. He has thoughts of self harming and committing suicide. He has cut himself twice while we have been dating, punched windows and graveled walls, and has attempted suicide three times. I try to help him as best I can but he solely relies on me to help, and I’m not in any shape to take care of another person 24/7. I have little room to worry about myself and my needs. I love him very much but it is very difficult to have someone else’s worries on my back to carry. I want him to reach out to a therapist for help but he tells me he will do it on his own, but a therapist would be able to help him more than I can. He mentally abuses me and traps me in the relationship by threatening himself when I want to leave the relationship so I can help myself. I’m stuck between leaving for my own good, and staying to help him because I don’t want him to get hurt. Please help me.

A: You are absolutely right. Your boyfriend isn’t holding you close through love, he’s holding you hostage. He knows it would be hard for you to live with yourself if you broke up with him and he hurt himself. It’s unfair. It’s not at all what love is about.

I think you are also right that you can’t carry him any more. It’s time to call in reinforcements. If his parents are decent people, arrange to have a talk with them. They have a right to know that he is in this much trouble. They are in a position to insist that he get help. If you don’t think his parents are a good bet, then please talk to your school counselor or nurse or to a favorite teacher.

Please don’t worry about “betraying” him by calling in some help. Some secrets shouldn’t be kept. Even therapists are released from the rules of confidentiality when someone is threatening or practicing suicide. Our first job is to keep someone alive.

Turn this fellow’s care over to someone who has the resources to actually be helpful. Then break off the relationship and take some time to recover. You might want to see a therapist yourself to help you learn from this experience and to help you deal with any guilt and anger you may be feeling.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Jan 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Seriously Depressed Boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/01/11/seriously-depressed-boyfriend/