5

I am a college student. My friend (who I have known for almost 3 years now) attempted suicide 4 days ago by overdosing on sleeping pills, but not taking a sufficiently high dosage. I only learnt about it a couple days ago, when I saw his father living in his dorm room with him and asked him about it.

The thing is, he's been acting absolutely normally since the incident. He's going to classes, taking interest in music and movies and other aspects of normal life, hanging out with our mutual friends and generally having fun. Even when he told me about the attempt he was super casual about it. Initially I thought he was making some sort of off-color joke, but he was saying the truth. Apparently, he had recently come in possession of sleeping pills and in an moment of anxiety/instinct, he overdosed. But it's only been 4 days, and he's acting completely normally.

I am totally confused by this behaviour. I consider myself to be a good friend of his and want to help him as much as I can. I offered to do all his work for him, I told him he could depend on me for anything, but he has denied all my requests for help, saying that he's fine.

What can I do to increase the chances of him opening up towards me so I can actually help him?

  • @sha2345 Had your friend exhibited any signs of depression (or anything similar) before this? – Lord Farquaad Nov 15 '18 at 15:32
7

It's great that you're looking out for your friend and you seem to be doing all you can. Suicide can be a really sensitive topic though, with many conflicting thoughts for the person, without being a psychologist or medical expert I'm not sure there is much more you can do.

I would suggest if they wants to play it like they're back to normal, try to act like everything is normal as well. You could also include them in a few more activities to keep an eye on them.

You've already made it clear that you're willing to help in any way you can, wait them to open up to you, if he feels like doing it.

Having been depressed and near suicidal before myself, I can tell you one of the conflicting thoughts I was having is a desperate need for more attention. I used to feel so guilty and ashamed of having that need, and so I tried to continue as though everything was normal as well thinking I could shield everyone else from my pain that way. If I had a friend discover it by accident I would probably react similarly as your friend so as to not worry them but I would appreciate their offer of support.

1

Suicides are on the increase, and everybody wants to help. Not all people giving advice on the subject are qualified to help, or even right. I'm certainly not qualified, but I do have some experience of this close to home.

Talking is vital to the prevention of suicide. And you are seeking an interpersonal solution so you obviously want to say something to your friend that will help. But the words you choose are vitally important. Not being qualified, I would not want to put any words into your mouth.

This is why you have to be so careful: For a person who is contemplating suicide, having someone to talk to about the underlying causes of their feelings is a lifeline. There are lots of charities and individuals always publicising helplines or other means of talking to someone with a view to preventing them from taking their life. However - there is also growing evidence that talking about suicide itself is unhelpful and may actually be contributing to deaths. As many as 5% of youth suicides are so-called "copycat" suicides; that is where someone with a mental illness has perhaps heard, read about, and subsequently obsessed about someone else's suicide, and then emulated it. These tend to occur in clusters too - several may happen in one area in a short period of time. So actually, the many well-meaning individuals "raising awareness" of suicide and attempts to "de-stigmatise" it may actually be putting the idea into the heads of many who would otherwise not have contemplated it. Like I said, there are differing schools of thought.

Be a friend to them. Assure them of their worth and their value to you. By all means, raise the incident (it would be an elephant in the room otherwise) but with the purpose of talking about any problems they are facing in life and seeking solutions. Don't dwell on the attempt itself. Most importantly, encourage them to seek professional help if they have not already received it.

0

People who have attempted suicide need to be under the supervision of a trained professional, even if they "act fine", because there may be underlying physiological factors which require medical intervention. For example, your friend might suffer from some kind of bipolar or other disorder that makes them seem completely normal or even better than normal when in the "manic" phase, and not at all fine when they swing the other way.

I am certainly not a trained professional, so I can't be sure of any diagnosis, or even properly explain the characteristics of this disorder. There are any number of online resources that might help you with more information.

Also, if your friend is already being treated, then his behavior might appear normal if he is on medication that helps control these bipolar swings.

I would not force the issue. Instead I would continue to be his friend, to call and text on a regular basis, and invite him to do the kind of things you both enjoy doing -- movies, sports, dining out, etc. Be aware of any possible signs he is sliding toward what seems like suicidal behavior, but at the same time don't read too much into anything that seems out of place or unusual. Watch what he does, more than what he says.

  • 1
    I see no evidence of bipolar disorder. I see no evidence against it either, but based on the question there is by far not enough information to theorise about a specific mental problem. I think the concrete advice in your answer is very good, but I don’t understand why you are so certain the OP’s friend has this disorder. – 11684 Nov 15 '18 at 9:55
  • @11684 I don't understand how you read "certainty" when I specifically state "I am certainly not a trained professional, so I can't be sure of any diagnosis". If you read my answer carefully, you will recognize it as one possible explanation, nothing more. But I can certainly add more verbiage to help reinforce the point. – Andrew Nov 15 '18 at 14:34
  • Maybe “certain” was a poor choice of words, my apologies. Perhaps “insistent” would be closer to the truth. Because it is not just the only suggestion you offer but you also mention it more than once, it gives the impression you think it is very likely this is the case. May I suggest editing out the mention of bipolar swings from the third paragraph? Additionally, you could rephrase the first paragraph to talk about mental problems with intermittent symptoms in general (and then suggest bipolar disorder as a parenthetical if necessary). – 11684 Nov 15 '18 at 19:59
  • 1
    Sorry for being so insistent, it’s just because I think your answer is essentially very good advice. – 11684 Nov 15 '18 at 20:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.