Recently, I called off a year-long relationship with a man. Now he is calling saying he’s got nothing to live for and wanting to see me. He refuses professional help. I do believe he’s suicidal. I am concerned but I can’t lie and say I want the relationship. What do I do?
Lying won’t help. He will only feel more deceived when he finds out the truth.
He is depressed and disturbed and obviously needs professional help. Unfortunately, we cannot force others to seek help. If you have good reason to believe that he is about to take suicidal action, you can call the police. They will intervene if they think an actual attempt is being made.
Quite often, people who make threats are desperately trying to change the behaviour of someone close to them. They truly believe this is the answer to their problems. They doubt that they have the resources to go on as things are.
Anyone who is suicidal is experiencing a death of some sort. Something is dying. In this case, the year-long relationship is dying. This man has invested a lot of his identity and perhaps his dreams into the relationship. When it ends, he feels this death in himself. He doesn’t know how to deal with these overwhelming emotions. He misinterprets it as a need to end his life.
Of course, there are parts of him that do not want to die that love life, in fact. The trouble is these parts are presently dormant. The more panicked you are about his threats, the more hope you give him. He will interpret your concern as love. If he thinks the threats are working to break down your resolve, he will keep using them. Remember that he is feeling desperate.
Be honest with him about the end of the relationship. At the same time show compassion. The best way to do this is to reflect back to him the way he is feeling. For example, say: ‘I understand you feel there is no reason to go on. You must be very disappointed’ and similar empathetic phrases.
If he persists with his threats, tell him it would be a shame and you’d be sad if he killed himself but it is his life and his choice. Give him the link to sites like Beyond Blue on my links page.
Empathy and honesty are usually enough to get the individual moving through their grief and turning back towards life. At this stage, they often do seek professional help.
Unfortunately, some people do choose suicide. This is very hard for the friends and relatives left behind who often blame themselves.
The truth is we cannot control the choices of another. We like to think we have the power to change others. In reality, people make their own choices and this includes the choice to take notice or not take notice of the advice or help of someone else.
If this man is determined to suicide, ultimately no one can stop him. If he doesn’t carry out his threats, it’s likely he had limited intention to do so.