My friend is in a very bad way. She's had a painful breakup, and she has a long-term chronic illness that's tough to deal with. She's housebound, isolated, very unhappy and says she's thinking of suicide. What, if anything, can I do to help?
posted by Catseye to health & fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(To pre-empt the obvious - yes, I know to call an ambulance if she talks about planning suicide.)
I'm really, really worried about her, and I don't know what to do.
The breakup was a few weeks ago. It was a long-term relationship, and while it wasn't particularly acrimonious, it's obviously very painful. She's now living alone, which also makes things tougher. Most of her friends live some distance away (me included), her family aren't in the picture, and she isn't able to leave her house very much due to her illness. She is not able to work or study.
The illness itself is of long duration and has a lot of varied symptoms. She has fatigue, pain, and problems with concentration and vision/hearing among other things. She has a good doctor now and she has a diagnosis, but she's had a very hard time with the medical establishment, something that continues today with medical professionals accusing her of faking her symptoms, not taking her seriously and so on. She has a very antagonistic relationship with the medical profession in general, and finds hospitals and so on very stressful to the point of being traumatic. (Her current doctor has also suggested that some of her symptoms may be psychological in origin. I'm not remotely qualified to comment on that, but I am 100% sure that her symptoms are real and that she is very definitely ill, and certainly being under a lot of psychological stress like a breakup is going to make things worse.)
Since the breakup many of her symptoms have worsened. Without her partner there to do some of the practical and emotional support work, she is reliant on home carers and benefits - the benefits aren't enough (she is applying for more but the procedure is lengthy and stressful), and the home carers only visit several times a week, which seems to be far less than she needs. She says she is not eating, that she does not have the energy to cook properly and does not have the concentration to make sandwiches or eat snacks/cereal/microwave things, and is losing weight as a result. She says she is getting weaker and that she worries she will not be able to walk around her house without collapsing. She says she has times when she literally does not have the energy to turn over in bed.
She does have some forms of support. Her doctor is good, as mentioned above, and she has access to a phone counselling service she says is good, and to other support phone lines, which she says she has found useful for dealing with specific symptom-related things. I phone her to chat and talk to her online, as do other friends, and those times she seems ok - sad about the breakup, of course, but managing all right given her miserable situation. But then something else will happen - the other day she had an unexpected assessment visit from social services which ended with her calling the police, collapsing, getting taken to hospital by the police, having convulsions in the hospital and then getting accused of faking it by nurses - and she posts these awful painful messages on Facebook and so on, and it just seems like an avalanche of awfulness.
Tonight her ex phoned me because she'd called him, upset, saying she couldn't eat and couldn't take care of herself and was getting weaker and kept thinking about suicide. (He'd called the appropriate medical services before me - he was calling me because he knew I was going to visit her in the next few days.) I've spoken to her briefly tonight - I don't think she's in hospital - and she's not sure if she'll be up to a visit, but will try.
I just, I'm so worried for her. Things just seem to be getting worse and worse for her. Really she needs more practical support, but this doesn't seem available - social services won't visit her to cook for her multiple times a day, and she turned down some sort of crisis care deal they offered because she doesn't want strangers bathing her etc. (which I totally understand, but 'not bathing ever' doesn't seem like a great alternative). It really seems that she can't cope with living alone without support, but she sees any alternative to that as a sign that she'll never get better and will end up in a nursing home.
She has already done all the Googling you can possibly think of about what social services can provide, what kind of treatment is available to her, what her benefits situation is, and so on. She is well informed about her illness and her options. But I think she's just so wrapped up in misery at the moment that she can't see anything but despair, and then things get worse and worse. She is such a warm, kind, wonderful person, and she deserves so much better than this.
I would not be asking this, and sharing her details like this, unless I was really genuinely very worried about her and totally at a loss as to what to do to help her. I can see that she needs help beyond what she's getting, but I don't know what she needs or what the best way is to help her get it, and I am very, very worried that she will do something to harm herself. Is there anything I can do?
(If it is relevant, we are in the UK.)