What To Do When Your Friend Is Suicidal

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Dear Dr. Darcy. I recently experienced a breakup with a girl who I loved very much. It was her call, and I tried everything, from fixing the issues that created the breakup to just remaining friends due to wanting to keep her in my life. But our friendship was full of tension and stress and I had to end it because I didn't feel like it was bringing enough positivity into both of our lives. However, I know that my ex girlfriend suffers from depression and is suicidal. I love and care for her but I am stuck and cannot figure out how to be there for her and still move on at the same time. I was the person she was closest to and who tried to encourage her to seek help. And now that I'm not around anymore I worry about her health and safety. Any advice?

ANSWER

I once had a very close friend who disclosed to me that she had suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. I thought about it for 10 seconds before responding, “I can’t have someone in my life who could potentially kill themselves. I wouldn’t be able to live through the trauma. I need you to see a psychiatrist immediately and go into therapy if you want to be in my life.” The friend subsequently went to a psychiatrist and it turned out that she had bipolar disorder which she’d been suffering with her entire life and if it hadn’t been for my ultimatum, she’d still be suffering with it. She’s fine, by the way, and remains a member of my family of choice.

I don’t think you do the friend/ex any favor by remaining her point-person. First, you’re no trained professional, but more importantly (and to my second point), even I, a trained professional, saw the folly in trying to be that person for someone in my personal life. I would have been (and you would be) a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage and she never would have gotten the help she really needed.

You need to leverage your relationship with her to get her the type of help that will save her life. Follow the script that I used with my friend and get her evaluated for medication immediately – and then she must get into therapy. If you don’t do this, not only is her life in jeopardy, but you’ll wind up being a therapy-lifer if she has a successful suicide attempt. Grab your ovaries and follow my advice. You’ll thank me later.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Lesbian.