My girlfriend is depressed and suicidal from time to time. She won’t seek help although I have tried to convince her to. It scares me a lot that she feels this way and I’m powerless to help. I don’t know how to proceed.
Thank you for writing to me. It can be very frightening and distressing if someone you are close to is depressed and low and thinks about taking their own life.
I see that you are feeling powerless and unsure how to best help your girlfriend. One of the most important things to do if someone is feeling depressed or suicidal is to talk to them about how they feel and be there to listen; you are doing this.
It is important for your girlfriend to know that depression is one of the most common mental health problems and it is treatable. The first step towards getting help is for your girlfriend to recognise that there might be a problem. The second step is for her to talk to someone she trusts. I know that she is talking to you but I think that she also needs to talk to a professional, like her GP, as they can help her deal with the underlying issues behind her depression and her suicidal thoughts.
Often young people who have depression are worried about seeking help. Many young people feel worried about how others will react and can feel embarrassed, guilty or ashamed for feeling the way they do. GPs regularly support people of all ages who are experiencing symptoms of depression; and they have the experience and knowledge to help your girlfriend identify what support and treatment will help her with her recovery. Her GP may make suggestions on steps she can take to try to lift her mood and manage her symptoms. Her GP may suggest that she see a counsellor or arrange a referral to the local mental health service.
Having thoughts about wanting to end your life can be extremely frightening and difficult to talk about. Sometimes people who feel suicidal may not necessarily want to die; they may just be unable to see any other way of coping with life and want time-out from it. I know that you have tried to convince your girlfriend to get help please continue to encourage her to ask someone for help as it is important for her to explore every possible options and source of support she could use. It’s important for her to know that she is not beyond help and is not alone and that there may be some things that she – and other people - can do to make things better for her.
It may be useful to ask your girlfriend if she knows what may help her and how you can help. For example, she may go to a GP appointment if you go with her or you could both look at identifying what sources of support are available, such as what the Samaritans offer.
On the Isle of Man we have a Crisis Response and Home Treatment Team. This team will assess and support people who are experiencing significant deterioration in their mental health and/or are experiencing crisis in how they feel and that an urgent response it needed .Their telephone number is: 01624 642860.
If your girlfriend is suicidal in the future and feel that there is an immediate danger , make sure that she is not left on her own. In the first instance contact her GP for an emergency appointment or the out of hours service. If it is out of hours and your girlfriend agrees contact the Crisis Response Team for an urgent response. You could also go to the Emergency Department or ring 999.
It can be very emotionally draining and upsetting knowing someone you care about is having suicidal feelings and thoughts. It is important that you look after you own mental wellbeing and physical health. It can be helpful for you to talk to someone you trust about how you feel, this could be a family member or friend.
Helplines and support groups
- Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number will not show up on your phone bill.
- PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation that supports teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.