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How Do I Help a Suicidal Friend?

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From a teenage young woman in Chili: So, I have this friend, that has been thinking about attempting against her life, and she seems determinate, she says that she feels empty, that she don’t want to do nothing, she feels unuseful and feel like she is failing to his friends by being so down and not being able to give them properly attention, she goes to a therapy and take pills but suddenly it aren’t helping anymore, she was about to leave those pills because she was feeling better but all of a sudden this feeling came to her.
Then there is this other friend, she has the same issue but she thinks no one really cares for her and her family don’t treat her good, she is not in therapy because her family don’t let her to, she feels unloved and we are not that close either so i don’t know what to tell her either
I don’t know what to tell them at all, i want to give them some advice or support, please help me.

How Do I Help a Suicidal Friend?

Answered by on -

A.

Thank you for writing. I think your friends are very fortunate to have a friend as caring as you are. I’m sure it must be frightening to be carrying this information, There is little you personally can do with either of your friends. But you might be able to get them the help they need.

Friend #1 who has a therapist:

You didn’t mention if her parents know how desperate she is. The rules of confidentiality end when someone is dangerous to herself or others. If she hasn’t turned to her parents, please tell her that she needs to do so or you will tell them. She may feel betrayed. It may end the friendship. But losing the friendship is better than losing her to suicide. Her parents deserve to know. They can access services for her that a friend like you cannot.

In addition, ask your friend if she is sharing her feelings with her therapist. If she hasn’t, urge her to do that too. The therapist will then be able to assess the situation and to make recommendations about how to keep her safe.

Ironically, sometimes suicidal feelings mean that therapy is working. Sometimes (not always, but sometimes), when a client has been depressed, a sign that they are moving out of feeling stuck and helpless is suicidal thinking. They are at least thinking about taking an action to get out of being depressed. No therapist wants to see any client resolve their pain that way, of course. But it’s often a crucial time in the person’s therapy. With a therapist’s support and guidance, the client can begin to see other options besides ending it all to end their pain.

If your friend isn’t telling her therapist the truth about her feelings, it may be possible to tell her that you are going to contact the therapist. In many places it is legal to do that as long as you understand that the therapist can’t ethically even confirm that your friend is her client. She also can’t tell you anything about the client’s treatment. But she can listen to your concerns as long as you are okay with the fact that she will tell your friend that the information came from you. If you are in doubt about whether you can legally contact her therapist this way, consult with an attorney, your physician, or your school counselor.

If it is okay in your country, you could call the therapist and say something like, “I’m [your name], a friend of x. I know you can’t confirm that she is your patient or have a conversation with me about her. But if she is your patient, I think it’s important for you to know that she is talking about suicide in a way that concerns her friends. She knows that I am calling you. Thank you.” That’s all you should say. Don’t try to engage the therapist in a conversation.

Friend #2 : Much the same as #1: There are some secrets that should not be kept. When a friend confides she is suicidal, you are not obligated to keep the secret. Quite the  opposite. Her parents need to be told how desperate she is. If they won’t listen, talk to another trusted adult who might be able to get through to her parents. Just as with Friend #1, your friend may feel betrayed by you and end the friendship. But do consider that sometimes a person who tells people she is suicidal is actually sending out a plea for help. Unconsciously, she may want someone to take her seriously and get her the help she feels she can’t ask for directly. Just as with #1, you may lose the friendship over this but you will feel better knowing you did what you could.

I wish you well,

Dr. Marie

How Do I Help a Suicidal Friend?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). How Do I Help a Suicidal Friend?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/06/14/how-do-i-help-a-suicidal-friend/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 13 Jun 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 13 Jun 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.