An acquaintance of mine (age 21) had suicidal ideations and revealed she was depressed. She had not sought out professional help, and I was supportive as much as possible. One day she texts me that she wants to jump off a bridge and I call emergency services in an attempt to stop her. Somehow I reached her before the police/ambulance did, and after about an hour of talking and calming her down, she decided to go home. During that time, the police had contacted her parents, who weren’t too pleased with the turn of events. From then on, I was completely shut out. What is the psychology behind this? Was it attention-seeking behavior, or something more? Could I have done something differently?

A: I am sorry your friend has shut you out, but I personally think that you did the right thing. Sometimes even trained mental health professionals don’t always know if someone’s suicidal gestures are true cries for help or cries for attention.  Either way, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

As a friend, you had no way of knowing if she was serious. If someone is standing on a bridge threatening to jump, I would certainly err on the side of caution and call for help also. It is unfortunate that you reached her before the police and had to deal with the event on your own.

She may be angry with you now (and most likely embarrassed) but hopefully the whole event will lead her to getting some professional help. Sometimes there are costs to doing the right thing. In this case, it may have cost you a friendship, but in the end, you saved a life.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts