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JUST BRENDA: How can I help my suicidal friend?

JUST BRENDA: How can I help my suicidal friend?
  • It can be very emotionally draining to be the support system for a person whose mental health also needs help
  • You're not wrong in taking a step back, but you have to remember, you are not a doctor
  • Do you have a problem to share with Brenda? Please email:

Hi Brenda,

I have a friend who is suicidal. I never know what to tell him when he comes to me for help.

I feel myself pulling away from him because every time he calls, I don't want to pick up.

I feel like it is something else, again, that I cannot possibly help him with, and that depresses me.

How can I tell my friend that sometimes I honestly can't deal? 

Dear Harried Harry,

It can be very emotionally draining to be the support system for a person whose mental health also needs help.

Sometimes, friends are given the responsibility of helping their friends in this way.

Your friend is sick. And in the same way if he had broken his leg, you would go see him in hospital; in this same way, you should try and support him how you can.

This doesn't mean you go see him in the hospital every day - you also have a life to live, and that can very quickly get tiring for you as well.

You're not wrong in taking a step back, but you have to remember, you are not a doctor.

You are not equipped to give him the help he needs, just like how you cannot prescribe medications to him, or perform surgery on his hypothetical leg.

You must get him the professional help he needs, and encourage him on the path to managing his sickness, just like you would for any other illness.

And, you must take care of yourself as well. You can't save everyone, but you can try and be a good friend.