Sharing Suicidal Intent and Asked Not to Tell.

Updated on October 07, 2016
T.H. asks from Philadelphia, PA
16 answers

I'm presently in the company of a really good friend of mine, and her sister. Before my friend returned home from work an hour ago, her sister shared with me that she's tired (of living). She stated that over and over again while tears ran from her face. She shared her scars from previous attempts. She told me that shes already spoken w her "favorite nephew" who is 10 yrs visit her grave and to remember her when shes gone.

She is recovering from breast cancer, is preparing for a hysterectomy, and stated that she doesnt want her mom and sister to be upset w her when she goes. She just lost her grandparents two weeks ago as well.

She asked me not to say anything. I offered some resources and encouraged her to seek counseling for her sorrow/depression. She shot it down. She believes that shes suffering from cancer because of the ill-mannered way in which she treated her mother during her 20s. Shes 35 now.

My question is, what is the right thing to do? I know what my heart wants to do but I dont want to be the bearer of bad news.

I KNOW for a fact that if I share this it WILL CAUSE a quarrel. I also know that my friend has an idea that her sister is silently suffering because she noticed something awkward last week.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

You all shared very sound responses. Im going to definitely tell my friend what her sister has shared. My heart knows that that is the right thing to do. I will call the hotline to seek guidance on her behalf as well. Btw, I never thought that the quarrel would involve me, but the sisters. Either way that doesnt really matter. Thank you all so much.

Featured Answers



answers from Washington DC on

You tell someone, that will actually do something about it, NOW. A quarrel? Really? So what!

If someone hid this information about a loved one from me, or just assumed I knew because they were acting strangely, I don't think I would have it in me to forgive them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I will say this and it's all I can say.

This person told you because they know you will tell. People who have a plan and have made the decision to do it don't tell anyone. They just go do it and it's over. She's tried before, she knows how to go about doing it. She's begging for help.

So you have to tell. But don't tell family. Tell a police officer or a therapist or someone that can take her and put her in a facility that can keep her safe until medications or therapy can help her.

If she's about to have a hysterectomy she might even be having PMDD symptoms due to hormone abnormality.

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answers from Las Vegas on

ETA: Please do not allow anyone to perpetuate the myth that people who commit suicide do not talk about it. That is NOT true! I have been the director of suicide prevention programs and worked with suicidal people for more than 20 years when I was practicing. Many, many times when people attempt suicide, there are often signs, including talking about it!!

NO, NO, NO, NO! You do not keep suicidal intent a secret. Never!

Life and the preservation of life trump your "word" and ALWAYS trump whatever "quarrel" may come.

This is someone's life you are talking about here!

When people are depressed and suicidal, they are not thinking clearly. It's like they are in a dark tunnel and cannot see anything but that dark….no light, nothing good, they feel like things can never get better. They feel hopeless. That is why it is up to those who are thinking clearly to be their voice, their advocates and do the right thing.

This woman is at VERY HIGH RISK: she is already under severe stress with her medical issues; she feels isolated from her family (even if this is just her thinking and not how they actually feel); she has made previous attempts or gestures; she's saying goodbye to family (her nephew, and giving him instructions on visiting her grave when she's gone. What person who is thinking clearly would do this?); she has suffered major losses recently in the deaths of her grandparents; she has told you how hopeless she is feeling and that she wants her life to end. All of these things make her a very high risk for suicide.

Please do not delay! This is an emergency situation.

Can you imagine the unending sorrow this family will feel if this woman actually dies by suicide? They don't deserve that and this woman does not deserve to have her life end this way. She deserves to get the help she needs.

Tell her sister. It is possible once the "secret" is out that this woman in jeopardy may feel the support of her family and be wiling to voluntarily seek in-patient treatment. If she will not voluntarily seek treatment, the family or some advocate may need to seek involuntary commitment on her behalf. You can call the national suicide prevention hotline at
1-800-273-8255 or you can call the hotline in your state for advice on how to proceed. (Not really sure if you are in PA as some people use other cities for privacy reasons).

There is help!! Please don't keep this secret. I know this is hard and uncomfortable, but if someone doesn't step up and say something, this woman's life may end, and the family will be saddled with unbearable pain.

Please talk to your friend and offer to help her get the immediate help her sister needs.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Be the person to start the fight - be the bad guy here.

In 2013, my brother took his own life. He did it how he said he was going to do it for years, and have even attempted a few previous times. The thing that still gets me, is he did it while he was living at an in-patient rehab center. It still hurts my heart the same way it did when I got the phone call.

If she's talking about it like this, she is very serious. Sometimes there is no help for people, but often times there are programs that can get through to people. I hope and pray that you do whatever you can to get her help - to let people know you need help helping her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

In addition to calling the hotline, I would ensure that she not be left alone until she is actual in treatment with a therapist or contracting to you or your friend that she is safe and not going to engage in self harm or suicidal ideation/intent to harm herself..

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Really hard spot to be in. I can't imagine. I think you've made the right call. She reached out to you. I think if you didn't tell someone, you'd have to live with that the rest of your life. I hope things work out for her and she gets treatment.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

You may be saving a life. Can you live with yourself if you say nothing and do nothing and she kills herself? You need to speak up. Your friend's sister is crying out for help. Please don't ignore her cries.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Please tell. I see your SWH and I hope that have already started making calls. I lost someone I love very much to suicide and it's awful, truly heart wrenching, guilt filled despair that fills my heart every day. If you even have the potential to save other people from this you should.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Please, be the bearer of bad news because this woman's life depends on it. You would feel so much worse if you stayed quiet and she attempts. This young woman has a history of mental illness. There is nothing you can tell her family that will shock or likely even surprise them. They will understand. They have seen her struggles, and her scars. You need to tell her family NOW about what she is saying. The fact that she asked you not to say anything isn't fair. You don't make or keep promises when someone's life is at risk. When she's in a better frame of mind, she will also understand that it wasn't right of her to put you in this position. Please call your friend and ask that she enlist the support of another family member or a few others close to her and have them go and do everything in their power to get her to the hospital. Sorry because I know this really hard, you shouldn't have had all of this placed on you alone.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Does she have a plan? She's cut herself in the past. Yes, tell her sister, yes call the suicide hot line for help with this. In the meantime tell her sister to lock up knives, scissors, and any other sharp things she could use.

Perhaps ask her to tell a policeman. Show her you are serious about stopping her. Now a days, many police departments are trained to deal with suicidal threats. They can do an involuntary commitment but only if they think she's likely to follow thru.

But first call the Suicide hotline. If your city has a local office call that one. They wI'll know about local resources and can guide you in knowing what you can do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think your friend has some mental health dynamics way beyond your ability to understand.

If she is there, insist that she call the suicide hotline right in front of you or dial it and put it on speaker phone. You need someone who is trained.

If she is not there, then you call a third friend (not in this dynamic) or family member who will be supportive and go together to her house explain that you take threats of suicide seriously and assist her in calling her therapist, physician or suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255.

Unless you are trained, it is best for you to contact a professional who understands the dynamics of mental health and the implications her physical health might have on her state of mind.

Otherwise, I feel you will be pulled into a very dysfunctional triad with these two people.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

I would call a suicide hotline about it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

You have to tell!!

I taught school with a great friend of mine and she started talking about her plan and how each night she was getting more courage it do it...including showing up wearing long sleeves from cutting attempts.

After school that day I told her we were going for ice cream got her in my car and took her straight to her doctors office....marched her inside and told the receptionist she it was an emergency that we see the doctor ASAP.

They actually took us right back...he wanted to put her on a 72 hour psych hold....she begged no that she would lose her job. So I agreed not to let her out of my sight for 72 hours at least and to remove all dangerous things from her apartment. (I moved in with her after taking all sharp objects from her apartment to my house).

It turned out she was on antidepressants and she was actually bipolar and the meds were causing suicidal thoughts and in her case she was probably less than 48 hours from getting up the courage to do it.

I was so scared she would be mad and hate me....but she was so relieved to have someone take charge and get her help. Once off her old meds the suicidal thoughts stopped and she was able to start functioning again. I drove her to her psychologists office every afternoon and she ended up past this and on the right medication she flourished.

You cannot think she won't do have to get her help!! Tell her sister. if she won't listen, call suicide hotline to find out what to do!! But don't just sit back and do nothing!!

You really can save her life. Big hugs!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

you need to call the suicide prevention hot line. TODAY. She needs help.

How horrible of her to put the burden on her favorite nephew. How's he supposed to handle that?

DO NOT keep this secret. Call the police. Call the suicide hotline. Call who ever you need to call and get this girl the help she needs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Talk to the sister and have her contact your county social or human services. Find out how to get her admitted to a psych ward.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

She's reaching out to you because she knows you'll tell.
I will share something with you: I'm also a breast cancer survivor and it's really overwhelming sometimes with everyone around you pushing that you "think positive", "you have to be strong", "you'll get thru this" etc etc. I swear I hate the color pink, because it just gets to be too much. You have to be able to mourn the life you had before cancer, and I think sometimes all the positivity around you makes it worse somehow. I'm not saying that support is a bad thing, it's just overdone sometimes. Maybe she just wants to be sad one day and have someone, her sister perhaps, be sad with her.
Next year on June 4 it will be five years for me. Why is five years important? That's when most cancer patients are declared cured. It will mark an end of this exhausting period in my life, maybe five years seem too far away for her?
It's important to talk to her when she wants to talk, there's a reason she picked you to tell. A counselor might seem too clinical and impersonal. It did to me, still does. However their phone number have been in my wallet on a sticky note for over four years, just in case I feel the need to talk to an outsider. In no way did she make the cancer happen to her, that's just sad that she believes that.
You'll do the right thing when you tell her sister. Her sister should know that this is no time to turn this sensitive moment into an argument. Best of luck to you and your friend.

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