I don't want to be her suicide letter.
May 24, 2015 7:07 PM   Subscribe

My long-distance partner is suicidal, and I don't know what to do.

I've been with my girlfriend for a few years, and we are currently living on different continents, and will be for the next year or so. She has alway battled with depression of one kind or another (I believe as a part of her struggle with BPD), but recently it has become a lot worse. In particular, last night she was basically telling me that she was going to kill herself that night and was saying goodbye. She didn't, thankfully.

To compound matters, things haven't really been going that well between the two of us for a bunch of different reasons, and we had recently been wondering if we should break it off.

(It's worth noting that I'm pretty sure these two things are mostly unrelated---the increase in suicidal thoughts I think has more to do with stressful work and other life/family/school issues, and are not about our relationship)

So I don't really know what to do. I know that I can't fix her, I can't magically make everything better, but I also don't want to just abandon her because I don't know where else she would go. I get that that's a dangerous and unhealthy dynamic in a relationship, but it doesn't change the fact that it's there.

Other possibly relevant information: there is a history of abuse within her family. She lives not close to them, but they're at least part of the reason that she suffers from the depression that she has, so she would not go to them for help regardless. She is also finding herself unable to work because of conflict with her current supervisor, which is new. Consequently, she is really worried about money because no work = no pay. This is not her first time thinking about suicide, and she has tried before (though it was before I met her).

So what can I do here? What can I do both to help her, and to take care of myself?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total)
Call in a wellness check to her local police non-emergency line. They will go check up on her and suggest resources. If you think a police interaction would do more harm than good, call her close friends in that location, and tell them exactly what you said here. If she has no close friends, call the police even if it's not going to go well.

You are not responsible for her actions; you can break up with her if you honestly think you want to. I think you should try to ensure that someone in her geographic location is looking out for her, because she is suicidal and helping her get help is the right thing to do. I don't have good advice for "should you break up with her," but I think you should leave it be until she is not actively suicidal.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:14 PM on May 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Also, you can call a crisis line for yourself and ask for resources to point her to or have her friends point her to. Basically she needs to see a doctor or therapist as soon as possible, even if that means she has to call 911 (or the emergency number in your country.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:18 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think I would try a three-pronged approach.

1. If you have reason to believe she is about to put any plan in motion: call emergency services/police in her town and send them to her address.

2. Talk with her about how she feels about checking herself in for a voluntary in-patient stay in order to help work through her current crisis.

3. If she is not already seeing a medical professional, offer to do what you can/are willing to in order to help her get set up with an appointment for a mental health provider. You can't physically be there to drive her to appointments, but maybe you can handle the work of calling around to set up an initial appointment.
posted by MsMolly at 7:31 PM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was taught that it's important to reinforce the truth that how a person is feeling right now is not permanent.

Since you're this concerned, please take active steps. Assuming you're in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK. See also Mayo's guidelines.
posted by JackBurden at 8:48 PM on May 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Clarification: BPD stands for borderline personality disorder. Do you mean bipolar disorder or borderline? As someone with possibly relevant experience, the advice I have to offer hinges on that distinction.
posted by Devika at 9:06 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ah, just noticed that I'm coming late to the thread. Feel free to MeMail me if the situation is still ongoing.
posted by Devika at 9:31 PM on May 24, 2015

Please MeMail me.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:00 PM on May 24, 2015

Also, to be more helpful generally:

- Call a suicide crisis line yourself and ask for help. They can offer suggestions. It can help to get strategies from professionals.

- See a therapist yourself if you're not already. If you have people you trust (really trust, there is a stigma around suicide unfortunately) then talk to them and lean on them. This is the kind of pressure that can shatter a person. You will need all the help you can get. The best way you can help her is to stay resourced, grounded, not overwhelmed.

- Bring in other resources that are close to her. Maybe her parents cannot be a resource, but maybe there are friends. Even if she doesn't want you contacting such people, you have the option of overriding her wishes in this case. If she were in a less suicidal state, she would probably instruct you to do what you could to keep her safe even if that went against what she was saying while suicidal.

- Try to get her into therapy of some kind. Don't take no for an answer. Make this a condition of your relationship continuing. It is too much for you to be her only support right now.

- If you genuinely believe she is going to do it, call 911 or equivalent. Sort out the consequences later. How can you tell? You can ask if she is planning on it; if she has a method in mind; if she has a time picked out. Answers to all three = very high risk = 911. People on the crisis line can help you figure out what to look for.

- Suicidality is like a wave. It rises and falls. A period of high risk is something to just get through. Just be with her and listen to what she has to say. There is no point arguing or trying to convince her not to do it, that will likely just bounce off; but being a presence, showing you care and saying it again and again can eventually get through.

- With that said, chronic suicidality is like a storm, wave after wave after wave. You are limited in what you can do. It may not be enough. Try to prepare yourself for that possibility. Whatever happens, it is not your fault.

- Being in that state of mind can be helpful. You cannot control the outcome and you shouldn't try, because trying means controlling her, and that's what her abusers did and that's why she is suicidal in the first place. If you go into it with the thought that you have limited power but you can show her that you care about her and that her life has value to you (and whether or not you remain her partner this will still be true), this will be a positive message for her to hear.

- You may have noticed that this advice is internally inconsistent. The 911 strategy takes away her agency. She may be hospitalized if so. It may make things worse in the long run. But if you do nothing, there may not even be a long run. It's kind of a no-win game. The best thing to do is talk to professionals now and figure out a game plan and stick to it, so you don't second guess. i.e. if I believe she is at immediate risk I will call 911. I will know because X Y Z. If I am not sure, I will send a friend to check on her. Make the game plan when you are not in the middle of a crisis, and follow it. It is far far easier to make decisions when you are not in a crisis.

My thoughts are with you and with her.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:27 PM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

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