As a learning exercise for team-building and understanding the nuances of psychological issues, Doctor George gave teams of his undergraduate psychology students the assignment of writing question-answer columns based on concerns they felt people have. The following is one of the columns created by Doctor George's students:

Q:

 

Dear Doctor George...

I have a friend who seems to "have it all" but talks about not having a reason to live, etc. frequently. He says he hates himself, his life and its direction and just can't do it anymore. How do I help? Who do I call? How seriously do I take this?

... My Friend is Suicidal

 

A:

 

Dear My Friend is Suicidal...

Your friend needs you at this point in his life. Whether or not this is definitely a serious problem, you need to treat it as one. Being prepared for the worst will either help the situation if it has gone wrong or help you realize this situation is under control already; both of which are beneficial. Although your friend may seem like he has all that he could need in life, he may be seeking attention, or assurance that somebody cares about him. This is where you come in. Showing concern even to the point of asking him if he is suicidal will not make him suicidal; only prove to him that someone has his best interests at heart and that he means something to them. Actively listening and acknowledging his feelings without being judgmental will let him know that you genuinely want to help him.

Since these statements are a frequent occurrence, there is no reason to believe it was just a bad day. After you've approached him, or even before if you feel uncomfortable, there are many services you can recommend he utilize that include help from trained professionals, or someone who can access that professional help. These include: contacting a family member of this person, calling a help-line (211 will direct you to an appropriate hotline, or 1-800-SUICIDE -- a national helpline available 24 hours a day or if your friend is a California State University Northridge student, for example, he could call: (818) 349-HELP), utilizing available resources that include counseling sessions (such as a government funded clinic, or search for www.freecounseling.org -- which provides many means of meeting a counselor, either anonymously online or sessions in person), or even contacting an outside counselor or therapist. You may seem like this is too forward of you, but it never hurts to ask. He could want to contact one of these groups on his own, but doesn't have the courage to do so by himself.

By making it known that you are there to be someone he can count on to get him the help he needs if it is necessary, that may improve his attitude by itself. To just know that he is not alone in this world if he feels isolated is a great gift. Reaching out to your friend can only present opportunities... opportunities that you may miss if you ignore the situation. You will be a great friend to ensure his safety and to help him realize there are always ways out of a bad situation and ways to regain happiness in his life.

Sincerely,

Doctor George's Students -- Whitney Burlingame, Caroline Garcia, Carlos Hernandez, Francesca Martine, Jeanette Pintos, Masha Smith, Sarah Valdes, and Lani Watson