Is there any way to help my friend?
May 9, 2014 1:44 AM   Subscribe

Someone who's been a good friend of mine for nearly a decade is going through a long rough patch (a rough field?). Is there anything concrete that I can offer her?

We met almost 10 years ago during university. Things were pretty much "normal" back then, at least in the context of her being an American college student, but after she graduated, her parents (who are from a very "traditional" culture, for lack of a better word, although she is American-born) and her family forced her to participate in something that has pretty much changed her life irreparably. She is still living with them because since we graduated she hasn't been able to really get any kind of career going, has no savings and a ton of debt, and even if she magically had a million dollars I don't know if she'd leave because she says she feels an obligation to take care of them, as they are much older than parents of people our age typically are.

We haven't seen each other in seven years (I left the States after I finished school and haven't gone back), but we've been in touch and she's been moderately to severely depressed seemingly non-stop for the past seven years. She's been trying to rectify the situation she was forced into, but her family members have all been threatening and intimidating her, saying that she'll bring shame to the family if she goes through with it, and she told me this morning that she wants to kill herself. (This was through e-mail, I sincerely hope she is speaking in hyperbole, rather than letting me know that she is going to attempt suicide.)

I understand depression, I understand being broke and feeling (and being) trapped, I understand having to live with relatives from a part of the world who have a very, very old-fashioned idea of what woman are supposed to be, but I want to know can I offer her anything concrete besides just commiserating? Because if she goes through with her threat of this morning, listening will have done nothing.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper to Human Relations (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could you research and point her in the right direction of women's organisations locally who work around these issues?
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 3:46 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I appreciate that you are keeping details vague to protect her privacy, but it's hard to imagine what her situation is.

If she's in a bad marriage (the only thing I can think of that fits the details you give), then she can contact a women's shelter and find someone who can help her put together a plan for leaving and living independently.

However, seven years is a long time to be moderately to severely depressed. Is she getting any help for this at all? Medication? Talk therapy? She needs help. If you think she is honestly planning to kill herself, the right thing is to tell someone. Even if that tears your friendship apart.
posted by Houstonian at 4:42 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

There Is Help from the MeFi wiki. The number for the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK), links that will help you find her more local help, info on finding therapy, dealing with depression, assistance with domestic violence issues, both nationally and locally.

Seconding the idea of finding her local women's shelters and domestic abuse organizations that have trained professionals and volunteers who deal with similar situations all the time. My understanding is that these kind of organizations are very familiar with the process of helping women who have little or no financial resources.

I haven't the experience or the training to pass judgement on whether she's in an abusive situation or not, but between the depression & suicide threat & the intimidation and threats from family members, it sounds like she could really use some professional help sooner rather than later. From a distance, you can do a lot of the ground work to find her specific local help and give her that info so she isn't faced with the possibly overwhelming task of trying to do the research and sort it all out for herself.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your friend has to be willing to get help. You cannot force her to do what's best for herself. Give her the number of a suicide hotline and some local shelters and free clinics... unless you are a licensed therapist, that's all you CAN do. You can sympathize, but you cannot make her get help.
posted by Rach3l at 10:18 AM on May 9, 2014

Your friend is an adult, and you can help, but you can't rescue her. Ask her what you can do to help. Ask her what she really wants to have happen. ask her how you can best support her. Just having a friend who cares, and who will listen, is an excellent support.
posted by theora55 at 12:01 PM on May 9, 2014

do not ever assume suicide talk is just hyperbole. ever. call your friend if you can, even if you two don't normally talk on the phone. talk with her. let her vent and cry and whatever.

then pass her info on the resources mentioned above.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2014

Thanks for all the answers.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:50 AM on May 11, 2014

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