Suicidal Girlfriend

Dr. Darcy

I've been trying to end my current relationship for months, but every time I bring it up, my girlfriend becomes hysterical and talks about how she has nothing to live for and has also mentioned suicide. I feel like a prisoner. What can I do?

ANSWER:

I am so sorry for the position that you’re in. Essentially, you are an emotional prisoner. What she’s doing is terrible, though I suspect she’s largely unaware of the effect she’s having on you. She’s likely just grasping at anything to dull some of her pain.

First let’s talk about suicide and then I promise to get to your specific question.

My advice to the layperson is that whenever you hear someone verbalize suicidal feelings, CONTROL the urge to play amateur shrink and IMMEDIATELY involve a professional. Professionals go through many years of education and then multiples of that in years of field experience to learn how to deal with suicidal ideation. I paid (or will eventually pay) 150K for my education, and I worked for years for virtually nothing to acquire my clinical experience, all of which boils down to the following directive: Mental health professionals must report any suspicions of suicidality, i.e. call 911. The point is, even mental health professionals must hand off the individual to authorities who will ensure the person’s personal safety until that person is able to keep herself or himself safe.

OK, now back to you. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m not sure she really means it when she says it, so I can’t in good conscience call 911.” Wrong. You can and you must. For her sake and for yours. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. She might not be in control of herself. It’s not worth the risk.
  2. Even if it’s a cry for help – it’s still a cry for help, and the help she needs is professional.
  3. In the event that it’s straight-up manipulation, it's still a very serious problem and your g.f. needs to see that when she cries suicide, people take her very seriously. One of the consequence to her use of suicidal language is police involvement (along with any secondary embarrassment). It’s the only way she’ll stop using that kind of language.

So there you have it. Sit her down. End the relationship with as much respect and dignity as you can muster, and if her words evolve to those of suicide, call 911. And if they don’t, then you’ve still ended it.

Good luck.