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How to help a suicidal friend

AnomeAnome Registered User regular
One of my best friends has revealed to me that he is feeling suicidal. He has been suffering from depression for as long as I've known him (6 years) and he's begun to say he doesn't know how much longer he can last just about every time I talk to him.

Last night I followed some advice I found online and asked if he had a plan. He does. He wouldn't tell me what it was but he did say he doesn't yet have the means but could easily acquire them. He doesn't have a date but has started drafting a note. I'm scared for him but I'm at a loss for what to do. I was able to get him to promise me that he would make an appointment with his therapist for some time in the next week and that he would be honest with them about everything he's told me. Is there any advice I'm missing? Anything I can do to help him see hope? Has anyone reading this been suicidally depressed and come out of it? What did your friends/family say that was helpful or not, if anything?

Some background: I'm 30, he's 27, and we used to date. We were together for about 5 years and split last summer (over a year ago). No part of me thinks this is a ploy to get me back. We're still very close friends and know that the breakup was for the best. As far as I know, I'm the only one he's told any of this to.


  • ZavianZavian universal peace sounds better than forever war Registered User regular
    If you think he is seriously contemplating suicide then you should either call 911 or my suggestion would be to go with him immediately to an emergency room at a local hospital. If he is reaching out to you that means he is seeking help, but obviously you alone cannot provide him the help he needs, but if you go with him to the ER he should feel a lot more comfortable and willing to talk to a professional there to address it. My father committed suicide several years ago and there isn't a day that goes by that I wish I could have prevented it (I never had the chance myself as I was unaware of his mental state).

  • GnizmoGnizmo Registered User regular
    Right now I feel you have taken all the appropriate steps. He has reached out to you and you listened and responded. You even got him to commit to getting some help. Make sure to follow up on that and ask how he is doing. Depression saps energy so it never hurts to offer to help drive him to the place or other stuff to help energize and lower the barriers in order to get help. Nothing that is a forever commitment but just something to make sure he gets through this latest valley.

    Suicidal ideation though is serious stuff. If it gets worse do not rule out having him committed. Understand that this might lead to a permanent rift in your friendship or even end it depending on how he handles it all. It is still worth it. This is an extreme measure but thats what it takes to save lives at times.

    NightDragonSpeed RacerElvenshaeJuliusZilla360Joe Camacho MKII
  • BasarBasar IstanbulRegistered User regular
    I think you have already done what a friend could in a situation like this. Does he have immediate family nearby? This may not end well for your friendship but I would definitely alert his immediate family and make sure they understand this is serious and not some temporary mental state. I am not sure how they work in the US but maybe you can call a suicide help line and get some professional guidance as to how you can guide him towards appropriate steps to get rid of suicidal thoughts.

    i live in a country with a batshit crazy president and no, english is not my first language

  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    Yeah suicide help lines can help you help him, so definitely look into those.

    The fact that he's openly talking to you about this means something. I'm not sure exactly what, but I lean towards it being a good sign in that he's probably not immediately suicidal. I've been in a similar place many years ago, I had everything planned out (and it was a ridiculously stupid and failure-prone plan, when I think about it now), but it was my most closely guarded secret. Only the very closest people around me even knew I was depressed at all, and nobody knew how bad it was.

    The best you can do for him is to be there and listen, if it doesn't weigh too heavily on you. Try to get him to do stuff, especially something he doesn't normally do, even if it's just going for a walk in an unfamiliar park (something low-effort, depressed people don't go for ambitious plans). Don't go overboard with offering advice, or looking for ways to cheer him up. Chances are that'll just exhaust and annoy him. Be careful to look after your own mental state too, because this can get exhausting. And realize that you can't pour happiness into people; ultimately he'll have to find his way back himself.
    Anything I can do to help him see hope?

    So this is going to come from my personal experience, and might not apply to all depressed people, but in my case what worked best for me were a number of activities and thought exercises that made my brain think it was feeling better. The most important one was externalizing the depression. My recovery really began when I stopped thinking of myself as depressed, but instead imagined depression as a foreign object, a cancer of the mind. This gave me something concrete to fight and helped me learn to recognize the tricks depression was playing on my mind. When you no longer see depression as an emotional state, but a rational problem, you're much better equipped to fight it.

    I also looked for, not sure what to call them, helpful "mantras" in works of fiction (poetry, books, movies). I guess everybody must find the right ones for themselves, but here's an example. I had the lovely depression+anxiety combo, and this is going to sound silly, but for anxiety attacks I recited the Litany Against Fear from Dune in my mind. It stopped the cycle of harmful thoughts going on in my head, and it took my mind out of my current miserable situation and into a safe, fictional place that I loved. It worked so well that even today when I feel anxious I only need to think of the first lines of the litany, my mind goes through the rest on its own, and I'm calm again.

    Once you find something that works, it gives you a lot of hope and courage to look for other things. The way back can go surprisingly quickly once you find the steps.

    Temporal ParadoxLocal H JayAnomeZilla360Armoroctynic
  • AnomeAnome Registered User regular
    I did actually end up calling a suicide help line, they pretty much agree with what's been said here so far. His mom does live very close and I had considered going to her but their relationship is complicated. I have told one of his best friends who is trying to help me keep him company as much as possible, doing simple things like Bliss 101 suggested. So far my friend does not know that I confided in anyone, I think he would feel betrayed and cut me out again.

    I hadn't considered how good a sign it is that he's actually talking to me about this rather than keeping it secret. Now that I think about it, I'm taking it as a concrete sign that he's looking for a reason to keep going. I talked to him a bit last night and he still seems really, really low. We're both musicians and have played together in the past so I suggested we start doing that again. Nothing too hard, just playing because it's something he has been passionate about in the past.

    It's funny, I'm actually in training to be a music therapist (please note that I do not plan to use any actual therapeutic interventions with him, that would be highly unethical even if I were fully qualified) so I know how much just playing can help. It's been a strange feeling to have all this knowledge from books and classes about depression and treatments and how very manageable it can be for so many people and feel completely unhelped by any of it. My friend has been going to therapy for months now and recently started taking antidepressants and says nothing is feeling any better. I'm trying to find ways to tell him that for the vast majority of people, there is a treatment that works, it just takes time. He always responds that he doesn't think he'll last long enough to find it. I am aware that the suicide risk can actually increase in the initial months of medication so I'm being extra watchful but there's only so much I can do.

    Bliss 101Elvenshae
  • HollerHoller Registered User regular
    If he suddenly claims to feel a lot better at some point in the near future, that is probably when you will need to worry most. It is very common for suicidal people to spend their last day or so on earth, once they've committed to the plan and are finally certain and confident about something and feeling relief about their imminent escape, to show a big boost in their mood shortly before going through with it. I'm not sure I have any advice about how to fix this, since it's out of your hands. But if he suddenly seems like he's in a great mood one day, be extremely suspicious and be ready to call emergency services.

    AnomeBliss 101Commander Zoom
  • davidsdurionsdavidsdurions Your Trusty Meatshield Panhandle NebraskaRegistered User regular
    edited October 2016
    There is a link in my signature for the wiki page for contacting suicide help. You can contact them and/or provide the correct one for your friend.

    Edit: missed the last post where you contacted them already. So there ya go.

    davidsdurions on
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