What You Should Know Before Helping Someone Feeling Suicidal!

As a mental health professional, I have all too often encountered situations where folks who are well-intentioned but dangerously misinformed, believe that they can provide the help necessary to saving a life when the threat of suicide exists. I want to share the following scenario with you, the reader, in hopes that should you ever encounter a situation in which someone you care about has attempted suicide in the past and/or may be currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, you will know what not to do.

I recently received the following letter: 

Dear JC, I was wondering what you can recommend for reading for an 18 year old girl that has come forward that her step-father had raped her since she was little and she thinks this is causing the divorce now in the family. Her Mother seems angry with her and is not supporting her or helping her heal. This girl also has a health condition- diabetes type 1. She tried killing herself on new years day that put her in the hospital for a week, her kidneys almost shut down. She stopped taking her meds.for the diabetes. The sad thing is that the county put the step-dad away for 3 months in jail for what he did!!! I can’t believe this f-ing court system!!!! I wish I had the funds to help her but I don’t at this time. She is reachingout to me and I would like to pull together a network of people to help her. Her own father is havingissues with his life, he is in the middle of a divorce and is having drinkingproblems of his own. How can he help her when he is battling severe depression himself. She is a relative. I need you to help!!!

My response to the above letter: 

First of all, my heart so totally goes out to her and to you, as this is a most heartbreaking situation. She has a multitude of problems. My first thought is that she needs to be in the care of a qualified therapist who knows how to help her. That having been said, let me just brainstorm with you a bit. First of all, let’s identify the issues as I see it:

  •  her step-father had raped her since she was little
  • she thinks this is causing the divorce now in the family
  • her mother seems angry with her and is not supporting her or helping her heal
  • she tried killing herself on new years day that put her in the hospital for a week
  • her kidneys almost shut down
  • she stopped taking her meds. for her diabetes
  • the county put the stepdad away for 3 months in jail for what he did
  • her dad is unable to be there for her right now due to his own problems

As I said, this poor child has a multitude of issues which makes her’s a particularly precarious situation. It seems apparent to me, that the issues from which she is currently suffering are:

  1. being a rape victim
  2. possible guilt feelings about her mother’s divorce
  3. suicidal ideation and attempts
  4. potentially life-threatening medical illness
  5. lack of family support or validation
  6. lack of validation or support by the court system

I don’t know how to tell you this gently, so I’m just going to say it as it is: there is no book nor books that can possibly save her life at this point. I don’t know all of the details, but have a few questions:

  • Has she been prescribed meds. for her depression;
  • If the answer to #1 is “yes”, is she taking her meds. responsibly (i.e. exactly as they are prescribed);
  • Is she still having any suicidal thoughts (if you tell me that she IS still having suicidal thoughts, I am legally obligated to ask you for her name and address and legally obligated to call the police if she is unwilling to go to an emergency room on her own!)
  • Now, assuming that she IS prescribed meds that are helping, is taking them responsibly and is NOT having any suicidal thoughts at this time, a book or two may be somewhat beneficial, however,
  • She requires more than just friends and books! She needs to be seeing a professional therapist along WITH the reading so that she is able to process all that has happened to her SAFELY. The books can cause further trauma if no therapist is involved!!

I have a professional obligation, unfortunately, to inform you that without appropriate professional help, this is a girl who may very well end up taking her own life! I can only urge you to continue to provide your emotional support while working on getting her the appropriate professional help.

  • One place you might begin, is to inform her that: She is more than likely eligible for county assistance in which case, she would qualify for Medical Assistance which would pay for the professional help she requires.

But, do not, and I repeat, do not risk taking matters into your own hands.

(Copyright 2014 by JC Fredlund) Copyright 2010 – 2014 by JC Fredlund (JC Eberhart, Past Pen Name): ©JC Fredlund and JC Fredlund’s Artistry Blog, 1974 – 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to JC Fredlund and the link to http://www.JCFredlund.wordpress.com blog is included with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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