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Question #91102 posted on 04/02/2018 4:30 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I am in a serious situation and don't know who to ask or go to.

My best friend of several years has been very depressed for the past month or so. She lacks the same happiness that saw in her in previous months. She has been withdrawing herself from social interaction to remain isolated and sleeping for the good majority of the day. Over the past couple weeks she seemed rather distressed, but I was unsure of how serious things were. On top of her being depressed, she was sexually assaulted by one of her only other friends last week. She hasn't told anyone but me about it, and even then I didn't want to press her. I have noticed a shift in her attitude after the assault. She has mentioned wanting to "disappear for a while" and "things might be better if she left". I am personally not in a position to help her as I have been struggling with my own depression for a while as well. All of this has been building up and then today I noticed she had many cut marks down the inside of her arm, that seemed recent. I am in desperate need of help and don't know what to do or how to help her. She isn't very fond of talking to counselors as medical professionals give her anxiety. Any suggestions would help.

- Very Concerned Friend

A:

Dear Friend,

This is a hard situation to be in, and I'm so sorry for the heartache both of you must be going through. I've gone through a somewhat similar situation with a friend, so I can share with you what I learned from that, although I'm not a medical expert, and I would strongly advise you both talk to a therapist about this.

Let your friend know you're there for her, and then be there for her--as a friend, NOT as a professional mental healthcare provider, because you are not a professional mental healthcare provider. You aren't responsible to give her counseling, and neither one of you should expect you to do that. However, just having someone who's there for her and who cares about her unconditionally can mean a lot. 

In that same vein, let her know that you're concerned about her and think she should seek professional help. Don't phrase this is an accusatory way, or in a way that makes it seem like you think she's a hopeless case, but just let her know that you really care about her and want the best for her, and that a trained mental health professional will be able to help her. And then, offer to help her find treatment options. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (here) has information about choosing an inpatient recovery center, help finding a program, and other things about suicide that may be helpful for you as well.

I would also suggest keeping a record of all the signs of suicidal ideation you see in her (comments, self-harm, if she was taking medication and stopped, if she was seeing a therapist and stopped, if you find out she has a plan, whatever else). It helps you keep an eye on her mental state, and this way if she refuses to tell a professional about what's been going on, you have an ongoing record to prove that she really does need help.

If she refuses to get help, know that you can check her into an ER involuntarily if she poses a serious suicide risk. This is a pretty drastic step, and to be perfectly honest with you, she might think you violated her trust and not like you afterwards if you do this, but it's worth it to save her life. I had a suicidal friend who refused to get help, and we ended up having to do this with her. In the two years since, she hasn't spoken to me or our other friend who helped check her into the ER at all, except right after she got out to tell us she was mad at us, but at least she's alive to dislike us. I would have preferred for things to pan out differently, but I would do it all over again to save her life.

There's a suicide prevention lifeline that can give you more ideas about how to help your friend, and that your friend can also call at any time. Their number is 1-800-273-8255.

There's also a crisis textline that your friend can reach out to for help.

Board Question #87920 talks about Auto Surf's experience in a psych ward for suicidal thoughts, so you can get an idea of what happens there and what they're like. It may help your friend to know what getting help for suicidal thoughts looks like in real life, and what another person's experience with this was.

I feel for you, friend. I sincerely hope your friend is able to get the help she needs, and that both of you are able to get through this. If you ever need someone to talk to, my inbox is always open (alta(at)theboard.byu.edu).

-Alta

P.S. I just barely got an email from BYU about a suicide prevention training they're doing this Wednesday, April 4, at 6:00 PM in 3228 in the Wilk. It looks like it's put on by the BYU counseling center, so they'll probably provide some really great resources and help.

A:

Dear you,

Alta has many great suggestions—I strongly support following all of her advice. I'd just like to add that you might want to see a counselor for yourself. They can help you know what you can do to best help your friend, they're free (if you're at BYU; if not, they're still worth it), and going through this experience with a friend can take a toll on your mental health. This will likely help you with your own depression as well. My parents took me to a counselor after I spent several months helping my possibly depressed friend (it's a long story). The counselor gave me great advice and helped me feel better about what I was doing.

Thank you for loving and caring for your friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with you both.

-guppy of doom