• Resolving Problems

When A Friend Threatens Suicide

Published: September 23, 2014 | Last Updated: February 26, 2022 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
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There are limits to what a friend can do when someone threatens suicide.

QUESTION

Hi,

I really hope you could help me or at least give me advice. I have had a guy friend; we have been friends for about three years. I thought he was fine the whole time up until four months ago when he told me he was gay. He comes from a religious family and feels as if he can’t come out. What makes it worse is that he is hopelessly in love with his very, religious, straight friend who has had a girlfriend for about three years. He holds onto a hope that his friend could be gay and they could live happily ever after.

My friend also suffers from depression, suicidal thoughts, anorexia, and self-harms. I always thought he was fine, but after he told me he was gay, all this information came out at me at once.

This leads me to worrying and trying to help ease the pain he is in but it seems as if he expects me to help him with everything. At first, I wanted to help him and now it seems it is like a chore, something I have to do. This makes me feel like an awful friend but it is putting so much pressure on me that I feel like his problems are weighing me down.

What really scares me is that I have found myself only thinking and worrying about him, and never about myself.  I have said and offered to get help for him, but he says if I do he will do awful things, even to the extent of suicide—which makes me scared to even consider help for him.

He’s made me feel completely responsible and over the past couple months I have actually seen signs of depression in myself. It is taking over my life, and I rarely feel happy anymore.

I love my friend to death, but I can’t give him the attention and help he needs. Please help.

Stacy

ANSWER

Hi Stacy,

It sounds like your friend has serious emotional problems that require the help of a professional. You seem like a truly caring friend but, at this point, he needs more than a friend. I’m glad you have recognized your limits and are appropriately concerned about your own health and well-being.

When someone threatens suicide, you have to take his or her statements seriously. Talking about suicide is a risk factor for acting on those thoughts.

However, you cannot take sole responsibility for his illness or allow your friend to hold you hostage by his threats. You need to let him know that you won’t betray confidences or go into details, but you need to let someone in his family know that he needs help.

Additionally, make sure that your friend knows about hotlines if he feels like he is in crisis:

  • A free 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is available to people in crisis (or their loved ones) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Calls are routed to local crisis centers.
  • In the UK or Ireland, Samaritans offers confidential support at 08457 90 90 90.

I received an excellent publication from the Mayo Clinic that discusses what to do when someone you know threatens suicide. I hope you will read it here.

Hope this is helpful to you.

My best, Irene


Stacy, also read these prior posts on The Friendship Blog that pertain to threats of suicide made by friends:


*Nothing on this blog is intended as medical advice, just the type of advice one friend would give to another. If you are concerned about your health or that of someone you know, consult a physician.

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Category: Depressed friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (3)

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  1. Ruth says:

    ^^^ agree with prior comments concerning professional help for your friend. Kudos to you for gaining control of your thoughts and life back. In your shoes I would not tell his family. There are Christian (you mentioned he was religious) organizations such as Joel 2:25 international that help a person in his shoes. They may offer you as a caring friend tips as well. No condemnation for him at all….no shame. I feel soooo very sorry for your friend. It’s a very lonely place to be.

    However in terms of suicide threat, I had a friend who took her own life around 8 yrs ago with no sign or warning. It devastated me to put it mildly; her family seemed aloof sort of (no wonder she felt so alone). I’ve done a lot of soul searching since then and realize finally after all these years of mentally beating myself up so to speak that I didn’t do anything “wrong” per se, that it was a personal decision she made that had nothing to do with me.

    Take care of yourself. You won’t be any help to your friend or anyone else if you do not put your own needs first.

  2. Amy F says:

    You’re a good friend to try to help. Your friend needs professional help, his family does too. The parents might not try to make the situation better, but he can get resources to help himself.

    The best resource I know for LGBT youth is this hotline: http://www.thetrevorproject.org

    The Trevor Project talks to kids exactly in your friend’s situation. They can direct teens to shelters if necessary. If he won’t call, you might call them for advice and/or literature to pass along to him.

    Some secrets are not meant to be kept. Tell a teacher, the school nurse, the guidance counselor or even the principal if he threatens suicide. Don’t try to figure our if he’s serious or not, even trained professionals sometimes get it wrong. Losing a friend is better than having a dead friend, if he pulls away from you. Most people who commit suicide have threatened first, because they really don’t want to die, they want their lives and/or situations to get better.

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