Most of us are used to our girlfriends being strong, supportive, sassy, and smart with a side of sexy. The last thing we ever want to think about is one of our besties wanting to end her life by committing suicide. However, the reality is females are four times more likely to attempt suicide than males and as women get older, suicide attempts become actual suicides. The reality is the likelihood of one of your home-girls feeling so overwhelmed by pain or disappointment and feeling desperate enough to stop it by ending their lives is greater than many of us think. So how do we intervene and prohibit our girl’s red cape from becoming her white flag?
Suicide is not a spontaneous act. Over time individuals often feel lonely and begin to isolate themselves, express feeling hopeless or burdensome, begin to get their affairs in order, talk more about death, increase their drug or alcohol consumption, or have a history of mental illness (usually depression).
- How frequently in the last few weeks have the four of us hanging become the three of us?
- Recently, how often has your friend said something like “Why am I here again?” “If I died, I bet no one would miss me.”
- Why did she just post her favorite “rent money” leather envelope clutch in Facebook Marketplace? Why does her Twitter feed have rave reviews about an estate attorney?
- How did she handle her break up with Sean? Not getting the promotion at work?
Make time for just the two of you to get together and talk. It doesn’t always need to be a group thing. If she doesn’t seem to want to meet, then just “pop” over because you were “in the neighborhood.” The conversation is best had face to face and in a private setting particularly if she is suicidal.
- Share what you’ve noticed:
- “You’ve only come to one of our weekly happy hours in the past two months and that used to be your thing. “
- “When we were walking back from lunch yesterday you said ‘I bet if I got hit by that bus and died today no one would even care.’ “
- Ask questions:
- You haven’t seemed yourself lately and I just wanted to check in and ask what’s up?
- How long have you been feeling this way?
- Have you ever tried to hurt yourself?
- Are you feeling suicidal?
After you shared what you observed and asked what’s going on, let her speak. Resist offering immediate solutions, saying you know how they feel or that they shouldn’t feel that way, or that “Things can’t be that bad.” Listen, and if you need to ask clarifying questions (How long have you felt this way? Have you ever tried to stop feeling this way by hurting yourself? ) — ask them.
Remind her that help is available, she matters to you, and that you are there to help.
Check for a Suicide Plan
- Does she have a suicide plan?
- Does she have a means of carrying out the plan? (Pills, a gun, etc.)
- Does she know when she would do it? (“This will be my last Christmas.”)
- Does she seem intent on killing herself despite your offers to help her get help?
If she has a plan, means, a time frame, and intent, then call a local crisis center or 911 or take her to an emergency room. Remove any potentially lethal objects from the vicinity and under no circumstances do not leave or allow her to be alone.
Create a Care Plan
If she doesn’t have a plan to harm herself or doesn’t express being suicidal but perhaps admits to feeling really depressed or just not herself and not sure how to get back to herself, create a care plan.
- Seek professional help: Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) for a list of mental health professionals in your area.
- Create a safe space: Rid her space of potential weapons.
- Make some of her “me” time “we” time- Girls night out can be girls’ night in.
- Work it out: Exercise is a great way to keep stress and depression at bay.
- Write it out: Write a safety plan that she can follow when she begins to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed. The plan may include going for a walk, calling you, or calling the 24hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
- Follow up: Continue your support over the long haul.
Life can be challenging and our friends and family can be the ones who help us navigate those challenges. If you think your girlfriend is about to trade in her red cape for a white flag the best thing you can do is intervene.