Dealing with a Depressed person writing about Suicide

Ask the Expert Patient Health Guide
  • Question:


    greek asked...


    I found some letters concerning someone and they write about their depression, I'm concerned writings contain suicide ideas.






    Dear greek,


    This is a tough situation. The majority of people who consider suicide don't actually attempt it, but this is obviously something you can't ignore.


    It's difficult to know what to tell you since I don't know the person. How close to them are you? How did you find the letters? Will your finding and reading the letters make this person angry?


    If you're close to this person, maybe you need to sit down and talk with him or her. If you're not very close to them, it would be helpful to talk with someone who is and possibly talk to the letter writer together.


    Whatever you choose to do, it's important that they not feel that they're being criticized. It's necessary to approach them in a way that makes them feel loved and supported, so choose your words carefully. Putting your hand on their hand or arm can be helpful unless they tend to shy away from physical contact.


    I'd suggest calling a suicide hotline for advice on dealing with this situation. Try the National Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-SUICIDE or visit their web site, The site has resources you can read.


    Best wishes to you both,


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    Please keep in mind that I am not a physician. I cannot diagnose or give medical advice. This section is for sharing information and offering support as a nonphysician “Expert Patient.”

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Published On: September 17, 2007