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How do you deal with someone who attempted suicide?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by tplyons, Sep 22, 2008.

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  1. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Long story short, a friend and housemate of my girlfriend attempted suicide this past week by overdosing and cutting her wrists.

    Long story: My girlfriend and I go to a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. We both live in campus provided housing, hers being an actual house that is barely on the edge of our campus. This house requires five people live in it, as did the previous year's living situation. Last year, they needed a fifth girl to get the apartment they wanted and took this girl in. She tended to be grouchy, introverted, and very involved in her studies. She's also suffered from anorexia and some other disorders, but had been getting professional help on and off for years.

    Fast forward to this year: she's a senior getting ready to graduate with a degree in nursing. She has been working in a clinic helping the needy get needed medical attention. In fact, being that she lives with my girlfriend, we invited her out to the bar with us last weekend and she happily obliged us and came along. She seemed rather happy.

    Wednesday evening, the girls could not find her. Her car was parked in front of the house, her door was locked, and knocked on her door several times to no avail. Thursday morning, they became more distraught that her door was still locked, and being that she was an early bird, always up before everyone else, the girls became increasingly worried and called the campus police to unlock her door.

    When the officer opened the door, the girls, with the exception of my girlfriend who was student teaching at the time, ran in to find their housemate unconscious on her bed, blood all over the bedspread and floor, and pills all over. They called 911, and she woke up while being loaded into the ambulance.

    Fast forward even more: She wants to come back to school. She scared her housemates, she scared her friends, and being that this is a small school, everyone knows what she had done, or at least attempted to do. She's being released from the hospital this weekend and wants to come back right away. At the time of the incident, she claims that she felt nobody loved her, but her housemates did enough and saved her life because they cared so much. She's coming back.

    How do you deal with someone like this? What do you say? What do you do? My girlfriend and her housemates have already spoken with the dean so that she does not move back in. They're afraid it will happen again, and they're too afraid to deal with it. They care about her, but feel they need to distance themselves.

    What do you say? What do you do?

    What would you do if this happened to you?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Actually, I have known over a dozen people who have attempted suicide (that I know of). Personally I find the best way to treat them is with a "respectful yet warm seriousness", the sort of friendship (or acquaintanceship) that you would give a soldier returning home from a tour of duty, or a friend returning from their parent's funeral. You may not personally feel like a suicide attempt "deserves" that sort of respectful treatment, but that's the way the person will respond best to (again, IMO).

    Jokes, even well-intentioned ice-breaking ones, are likely to go wrong. :) Shunning the person on the belief that they "need space" may also go very wrong.
  3. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    As someone who has touched too closely on a very similar situation, it sounds to me like this was much more of a cry for attention. She was looking for a support group, and she felt that she temporarily achieved that support when her roommates "helped" her.

    When someone genuinely wants to die, there is nothing, nothing that can stop him/her. Cutting is almost never a serious attempt at suicide, and with the trendiness of emo and myspace over the past few years, it's gone from a somewhat isolated, personal act that someone REALLY struggles with, to a trendy, look-at-me, suburbian, high-school stunt to post online. I'm not saying that her efforts were not sincere, but if there were more pills around the room than had made it into her... enough so that she woke up just by being moved a bit, it seems to be a case of someone who needs some attention and some support.

    What do I think you should do?

    DO NOT BAIL ON HER. I'm not telling you to let her move in. I'm not encouraging what she did. She needs to be committed and pursue continued help (through groups or therapy or whatever) outside of the hospital too. If she isn't in the hospital, she'll need your continued support until she builds herself up enough to start healing. Please, do what you can to be there for her. You may not understand her actions or thought processes, but please just show her you care. Extend yourself to her at least for a little while. Now that she's found affection in you all, it would be dangerous for her to come back to a stone-cold group.

    Now, remember that she is not your responsibility, either, so don't make her a burden. It's not up to you to provide treatment, so she'll need to seek professional help to say the least. But, you need to make yourself as available as possible as a friend.

    Make sense?
  4. She seemed to come to the realization that her room mates really cared among other people and now they don't want her living with them. Even as understandable as that is for them.. I don't know what kind of message that really sends to her...
  5. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    It's understandable for them to feel that way. It's impossible to imagine until you've experienced it first hand.

    They need to maintain a warm, open relationship with her, even if it isn't safe for her to live there again.
  6. Pretty much get her friends to put her on a suicide watch. Have at least one of them with her at all times. But other than that treat them like it never happened and hope that they will start to get better.
  7. AlphaMale


    Oct 30, 2006
    Ventura County
    A friend of mine jumped in front of traffic one time.
    I had to pull her back and holder her against a wall, I asked people for their phones so I could call the police, they just kept walking by. I also had to wait to wrestle a knife away from her. another time.
  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I'm finding myself a new place to live. Sorry. I don't need to come home to a bloody mess while I'm trying to complete my studies at the university. It's too much to ask. We can still be friendly acquaintances but, unless you were already a good friend, this isn't going to go anywhere positive for me. I'd be glad to help her get the help she needs, but that's pretty much it.

    [SUB]... don't hate me ...[/SUB]
  9. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Unfortunately, I've had too much experience with this, both with people who did commit suicide and those who attempted it and survived. What you're describing sounds closer to an experience I had in college with a girl I was dating, though not to the extent that I would have called her my girlfriend at the time.

    I came to pick her up and her roommate tells me she's been in the bathroom for an hour. We knock with no response and finally open the door to find her in the tub with the water pink from blood.

    I didn't immediately realize it, but this was much more of a cry for help/attention than a serious attempt on her life. For one, she knew that not only was her roommate home, but that I was coming over at a specific time, and the cuts were not as serious as they appeared (not all that deep and across the street rather than down the road). So some reflection made it obvious that she didn't really want to kill herself, at least not at that moment.

    One thing I can say is that you should never dismiss it. It may be a cry for help/attention, but it doesn't mean that the person won't actually kill themselves at a later time. That's not what happened in her case (so far as I know) but I know of several cases where it did. The only other thing I can say is that she really didn't like being treated with kid gloves afterward. She took it as patronizing and insincere. The only thing I could really do was roll with the punches (aka wild moodswings) and try to be a warm and stable figure in her life.
  10. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    I hate you.

    Like I said, if someone really wants to die, there is nothing that can stop them. This was a cry for attention.
  11. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Just be her friend. Support her, and treat her as normally as you can.
  12. +1

    It may seem illogical and selfish for someone to take their own life but depression can play funny tricks with your mind. It can make you feel like there is no one out there when really there is.
    It's a tricky and awkward thing to deal with but it's very important to let people know that someone is out there who can support you.
  13. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I had a good friend that attempted, and succeeded about 10 years ago. I'm still pissed off at him.

    Attempted and failed?? She deserves compassion.
  14. RWP


    Jul 1, 2006
    If you care about your friends LOOK FOR THE WARNING SIGNS. I lost two close friends in the past few years to suicide.
  15. That's it! I'm never going to Portland again :eyebrow: :D
  16. coming from having had problems with depression, this seems as though it was a cry for help rather than actually wanting to die, or a cry for attention. It's such a tough thing to deal with, from both sides. If she's thinking that she's not loved then her room mates obviously proved her wrong because they cared enough to go into her room and see if she was ok. Having them now say they don't want her to live with them because they can't deal with it really sends mixed signals. I'd have definately accepted her back, even if it was provionally, but more than anything I'd have said she needs some close friends to help her out rather than them pushing her away. If she is that delicate it could do more wrong than good.

    However this is just my two cents, rather than a completely informed educated opinion.
    If I were you, I'd go see the school councellor for some advice, you can't get better than that.
  17. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Calling 911 for a roommate that's attempted suicide isn't exactly the kind of attention you want, and it's hardly what anyone would consider "love." In her mind, though, this was the only way to seek attention. But I agree... especially since this echoes all of my previous points.

    Great minds...
  18. That's it! I'm never going to Portland again :eyebrow: :D
  19. SpankyPants

    SpankyPants That's Mr. SpankyPants to you.

    Aug 24, 2006
    Brooklyn, NY
    Well aren't you just Mr. DoublePostingPants today!
  20. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    +1 on spanky's comments.

    She's final year NURSING, and working in a clinic. If she wants to be dead, then she has the knowledge and access to drugs to make it happen. That she took
    pills and cut herself without doing serious damage suggests that either she's skipped a LOT of classes, or she didn't really want to die.

    People who want to die, don't "attempt" suicide.

    Just be around, and supportive. She might do something similar in the future, but chances are she's not actually going to kill herself.

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