What To Do When Someone You Know Is Suicidal

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

My question is two-part. My fiancée recently told me that she's battled suicidal thoughts for years. I knew she had bouts of depression, but she's very good at hiding it. How do I let her know that I support her and that she isn't a burden (something she mentioned being afraid of)? I know her depression is not a reflection of me and that there isn't anything I can do to "fix" it, but I still want to be able to help. There are a few things in her life that she isn't happy with and they are all fixable, but I don't want to take over her life and become her mother. I want a partner, not a dependent. I admit I get frustrated when she complains about things that she isn't being responsible and proactive about, but I don't know if it is caused by the depression or if the situations themselves are worsening the depression by making her feel worse about herself. So question two: How can I encourage her to fix what is making her unhappy without being a nag or a mommy?


Years ago, one of my closest friends told me that she’d been battling suicidal thoughts for most of her life. I was astounded that I hadn’t picked up on it, particularly since I’m a shrink, but also because I spent more time with her than with anyone else. 

After I got past my shock, I thanked her for trusting me – then I looked her in the eyes and told her that if she didn’t immediately go for a psychiatric evaluation, I couldn’t have her in my life. I believe my exact words were, “I wouldn’t survive a close friend’s suicide. And I can’t have someone in my life who could act on suicidal feelings. My fear over losing you would cause me to turn into your unofficial therapist and it will ruin our relationship.”

My friend got the help she needed and hasn’t had those thoughts in years.  

You can’t marry someone expecting her to change. Who she is today is who you need to be prepared to marry. So you have a question to answer: Are you prepared to live with a suicidal spouse for the rest of your life? If not, are you able to set a boundary like I did so that your fiancé gets the help she needs? As far as I’m concerned, it’s one or the other.

Gender & Orientation: Female, Lesbian.