My girlfriend mentioned suicide last night...
November 30, 2012 10:37 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend mentioned suicide last night...

My girlfriend has struggled with major depression since she was a teen. Recently her ups and downs have been surprisingly frequent and polar. She has never been diagnosed, but I am starting to think she may be bipolar.

She has mentioned suicide in passing before, I have known that she feels that is the way she will go. She has also told me that she knows how she will go and has fantasized about it many a time.

Last night she told me that she is going to go through with it soon. I am trying to figure out how to handle this situation, I know it is very sensitive and want to approach it the right way. Is this a cry for help? Is this her giving up? I need to act fast to save her. I know many people struggle with this and there are ways to get help.

Another thought, I love my girlfriend very much and have been caring for her ups and downs for a while. It seems to be where all of my energy is invested. I have noticed it really taking a toll on my emotional well-being and I have been thinking of leaving. With this issue of her suicide popping up last night, I no longer feel right about leaving right now. But I can't keep putting myself through this day in and day out. Anybody have any advice for my situation?

Thanks in advance.
posted by *lostatsea* to Human Relations (21 answers total)
Are you in touch with her family? Is she okay with her family members? The more people you can inform who love her and who she trusts, the better.
posted by xingcat at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Accept that you are in over your head, & contact professionals. There's bound to be a suicide prevention hotline in your area -- call them and tell them what you told us.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2012 [34 favorites]

Cry for help. Does she have family that can help you help her? You need to take her to see a dr tonight. However that has to happen. Call on friends and family for support, but get her medical attention or therapy ASAP.
posted by pearlybob at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you're in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 RIGHT NOW. They are trained to help you and have resources at their fingertips. They can do so, so much more for you than we can.

If you're not in the US, tell us where you are and we'll figure out the right people for you to call.
posted by workerant at 10:41 AM on November 30, 2012 [25 favorites]

She needs serious, professional help right now. If there is a psych hospital in your area, drive her there. I know it seems like an extreme step and she may try to push back on it but she needs to talk to a doctor, right now. This should not be your responsibility to manage on your own. I have gone through being in a relationship with someone who I suspected was attempting suicide while I was sitting at home being terrified and I would not wish that on my worst enemy.
posted by something something at 10:43 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

First of all, if she does follow through, that will be her decision alone. It will not be your fault. Even if you leave. Even if you get into a huge fight and say horrible things to her while you are leaving.

Since she has been pretty open about this with you, I think it would be appropriate to be just as open back to her. Tell her that you love her and want to see her get better, but that she needs to be the one to take action. Tell her that you will support any efforts she makes to get help. That could be a suicide hotline, a therapist, a psychiatrist for meds, or even an emergency inpatient stay if she's truly on the brink of harming herself.

Don't make an ultimatum (call the hotline or I leave), but do let her know that you have no interest in ending up with a dead girlfriend and that she needs to get help.

On preview - yes, call the hotline yourself right now to get more info about resources for her (and you).
posted by trivia genius at 10:43 AM on November 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Call you local suicide hotline and get advice now.

Once you get her sorted and in good hands, it's okay to leave. She's in no place to have a relationship right now.

You can even say, "Girlfriend, you know that I care about you greatly. I'm concerned about your recent ups and downs, and discusssion of suicide. I am not a professional and while I want to support you, I'm completely ill-equipped to do so. You need to be admitted for professional care. I'll go with you and hold your hand. I know it's scary but your illness is warping your decision-making processes and I'm afraid that you'll actually take your own life."

Then take her to emergency and see that she gets admitted.

Once she's in professional care, and her family is rallying at her side, use this as an opportunity to get some distance.

When she's ready, you can easily say, "You clearly have a lot of work to do, and a relationship right now isn't a good idea for either of us. I wish you well."

Or something along those lines.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:43 AM on November 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

If the relationship isn't worth it for you then get out. It's that simple. Does the amount you love her trump the shit you're dealing with because of her?

There. Now we've got the easy part out of the way.

The only reason she'd say this is as a cry for help. There's probably some giving up along there too.

No matter what, you need to call someone. You've already gotten the numbers. My wife had been on my case about seeing someone until I woke up crying one night because I just couldn't stop thinking about how I'd do it. The only reason she didn't call was because I called someone myself.

But she needs help, and as much as you want to you can't do it. That came out bad. You can help, but not fully to the extent that she needs.

Stop reading and call someone. Be there for her to the extent that you can. If you have to get out then get out. And that's fine, not everyone can handle being in this sort of situation.

And have a hug. If this is something you end up sticking around for you'll need it.
posted by theichibun at 10:46 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had a bipolar girlfriend. I could not convince her to get treatment, or even convince her that maybe her intense depression was chemical in nature and unrelated to the circumstances of her life.

She never mentioned suicide. I would certainly have taken that sort of thing very seriously, and communicated it to her family, and if I though it was at some sort of crisis stage, I would have tried to work with them to get her under psychiatric supervision until the episode passed and there was some treatment option to make sure it didn't recur.

Eventually, I had to break up with her, although I cared about her very much. It became obvious that the only one dealing with her depression was me, and I had no way of doing anything meaningful about it. I remained friends with her, but you cannot force somebody to get long-term mental health treatment, or even to admit that it's something they should consider. Actually, it was me breaking up with her that caused my girlfriend to realize that this might be something she should take seriously.

I did not like doing it, and felt terrible about it. But the depression was fatal to the relationship, and I did not feel me dating her was helping her in any way. I could still be there for her and support her, but, unless the depression was treated, I could not be in a relationship with her, because too much of the relationship was defined by conflicts that I had no way to resolve, and, unless she saw a professional, I could not resolve either.

I have had a few circumstances where people I know have threatened suicide, or seemed like they were plummeting. I have always turned to professionals and done what I could to see they got help. In one instance, it was a former friend, and I had to do so anonymously through her work environment, but she was expressing such a catastrophic mood crash via social media that I was worried she was having an actual psychotic episode, which she had had before. So I communicated with her bosses privately and anonymously, and she saw a professional, and got diagnoses, and realized this was something serious and started to take antidepressants. She recently wrote a blog post about how her life has turned around. How it's the first time in her adult life she feels stable. How she had in fact been well into suicide ideation, and had determined precisely how she was going to kill herself.

She also made it clear that she suspects she knows who turned her in, and despises that person.

So it is. Sometimes people aren't going to appreciate you stepping in. I'll take the hit. She already didn't like me anyway, and I don't need to be liked. But when I see somebody in crisis, and nobody else seems to be stepping up to the plate, I'll do what I can.

It's unfortunate that there is a real risk of seeming like a bad guy when you do the right thing in these circumstances. Of course, if you do nothing, the risk is somebody dies.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2012 [24 favorites]

Call the hotline. I recently had to do this for a friend. I felt nervous and strange building up to it, but I felt much better and clearer in my thoughts once I had done it and talked to someone about a plan. If you haven't called, please call now.
posted by bwilms at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

So you know, from what I've seen anyway, the hotlines aren't staffed by incompetent/entry level people either. I'd say master's level (or better) psychology peeps from what I've seen from the perimeter of MrsEld's professional circle (she's a PhD candidate in clinical psychology).

Have you checked the local major colleges in your area for an on campus clinic? The one here accepts all comers for an extremely reasonable rate and also are very much sticklers for research based/supported tactics only, no BS type therapy here. If price is an issue they may be more affordable than other routes.

YMMV but I'll just say if there's any fair parallel between the psychology clinic here and dental trade school procedures, sign me up for the trade schools, if that makes sense.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:07 AM on November 30, 2012

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Also, for other resources.

As suggested above, if your girlfriend has supportive family members or friends, please let them know what's going on and enlist their help as well. You can't, and shouldn't try to, handle this alone.

Thank you for helping her. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Be well.
posted by Boogiechild at 11:08 AM on November 30, 2012

I have come to the sad realisation that staying with someone that repeats suicidal thoughts without immediately acting on them the first time they are mentioned (as in, drive them right to the ER) teaches the sucidal person two things: talking about/acting on suicidal thoughts is normal/encouraged AND it is a handy way to manipulate people and relationships into an unhealthy place. My money one her noticing you distancing yourself and she (unconsciously) is being proactive and pulling you back.
posted by saucysault at 11:09 AM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes, as everyone has said above: please call the hotline. I think a lot of people think that it is only for people thinking about suicide. In fact, it is such a valuable resource for their friends and loved ones. They field calls from people like you all the time. They are helpful and kind. Do it.
posted by vivid postcard at 11:29 AM on November 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all for your responses. I am going to call the hotline today. Is it anonymous?
posted by *lostatsea* at 11:30 AM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by ocherdraco at 11:35 AM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

From their website:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK(8255), the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 150 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals day and night.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:38 AM on November 30, 2012

Speaking from the other side, as somebody who lost an important person because of self-harm: Get out of the relationship but please please please make sure she is safe. The guilt that I feel because I didn't intervene when my person was in trouble is something that I think will never leave.
posted by angrycat at 1:35 PM on November 30, 2012

It seems to be where all of my energy is invested. I have noticed it really taking a toll on my emotional well-being and I have been thinking of leaving.

You might want to think about getting into therapy yourself — not because You Are Crazy or There Must Be Something Wrong With You, but because oh holy shit, taking care of a seriously depressed person is hard. It's good to have someplace you can go for moral support and occasional reality checks and advice on coping with the frustration and so on. Therapy really beats the hell out of just bottling all that shit up.

Right now it sounds like you're totally focused on taking care of her — which is a natural reaction to this sort of thing. But if you are going to stay with her you need to make sure you're taking care of yourself too.

(Though for what it's worth, it is also completely reasonable — especially if she isn't willing to treat this as a wake up call and start getting psychiatric care — to say "No, sorry, I can't stay in this relationship," like other folks have said.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:17 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't dump her right now. I went through a period at the beginning of the summer where I was suicidal. I confided in my partner, and he dumped me immediately and threatened to have me taken to the hospital in handcuffs. I am on medication, I'm way better now, my partner and i have reconnected, but even now months later, I sometimes feel resentment towards him for acting so harshly and abruptly towards me when I was feeling so raw. Telling him that I wanted to kill myself took serious trust on my part. I desperately wanted him to help me, I felt like he was the only person I could count on. I needed him to assist me in getting mental health care. That's why I told him. But I did not expect to be dumped, it felt like being kicked while I was down. Hold off until she is at least out of the hospital and doing well with her medication before leaving her.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 5:26 PM on November 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

I dealt with something like this this summer. A friend of mine is married to a woman going through an intense depression, and while she was suicidal before meeting him, for the first time since they began their relationship, she started talking about being suicidal again. He panicked and called me because he knew I suffered suicidal depressions before. He wanted to know what he could do to help her and so I found resources for him in his area (he had moved recently so neither one of them was very familiar with the various services available in that area). Much like you, he found that her depression was taking a toll on him. While he did contact suicide prevention services, he felt intense guilt about what he felt, at the time, was betraying his wife's trust. In addition,he blamed himself for her depression. He thought if he was a better husband that she wouldn't be so depressed. So yes while you definitely need to call the hotline NOW, you also need to get into therapy, even if it's for the short term. You need a professional to help you figure out how to best deal with this situation not just for her, but for yourself.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:27 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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