I met another young adult (he is openly gay) a couple months ago through an online chat and have just been chatting with him for a while, but I'm not sure how to help him. He's had a really rough past with parents, family in general, prior relationships, and some other personal choices he made when he was trying to numb all the pain. He's told me he has attempted suicide in the past and has thought about different ways of ending his life, but every time I bring up counselors or groups like to Trevor Project, he says he doesn't want to talk to some random stranger about it all. I don't know what's stopping him, or how much longer it will, but I also don't have any information on him other than a phone number, a first name, and that he lives in another state. I don't know how to get him to seek help, I don't know how to get him help, and I'm worried from how he has reacted that if I push too hard too fast he'll close off from me, but that if I don't push hard enough, one day he may no longer be there. Do you have any advice? He seems really against the idea of phone chats because he "can't see the other person" but won't go see someone because "it costs too much and he can't afford it". He's asked me a few times why he can't just talk to me, but I've told him that while I can listen, I can't help like a counselor could. What I'm starting to worry about myself though is that he's got some really heavy stuff I wouldn't know how to deal with and I don't want to get hurt or make things worse. I guess in reality I don't know how to phrase what I'm asking for, but I hope this explanation gets my concerns accross and you all know how to phrase the answer.
First of all, you seem like a really great person. It is amazing that you are reaching out on your friend’s behalf. He is really lucky to have someone like you in his life. You should be proud of yourself Mike.
It can be a challenging to be there for someone who has been through alot, but it sounds like you are doing all of the right things. Encouraging him to reach out and get support is a really great approach. Unfortunately, as a friend, or even as a counselor, you can only do so much. People tend to do things when they are ready to do them. We hope, just like you do, that your friend will feel comfortable enough to seek support in the near future. To put it in other words, it can be really hard to come to terms with the fact that you can only do so much for someone in need. You are a really caring person and want him to get help, but you can’t make him do it. Moreover, it is really awesome that you are supporting him, to the best of your ability, while being forward with the fact that you are not necessarily prepared to handle some of his more intense issues. All in all, you are doing the right thing and your concerns regarding your own feelings and not telling him the wrong things are legitimate ones. Just be delicate with the way you approach the situation and continue to consider your own needs. Being there for him is all you can do and you are doing a great job at that!
One suggestion we have is that we/you could help him find a mental health professional who is reasonably priced or even free. If the cost is the reason he does not want to see somebody we could find something that works, but the options are largely influenced by where he is located. One great way to find resources like these are at LGBTQ community centers which you could likely find through http://www.glbtnearme.org/. Just have him type in his zip code, look for a community center, contact them, and ask for referrals to reasonable/free mental health services. Additionally, if things get especially difficult we would encourage him, or you, to call The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Finally it would be great if either one of you wanted to check out http://www.trevorspace.org/ or TrevorChat at http://www.thetrevorproject.org/chat.
The Trevor Project