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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's Online Attitude Darkens Following Her Brother's Suicide

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend on social media whose brother died by suicide several months ago. She was the one who found him. They were close, and I think he was her last immediate family member. She has posted openly about how horrible this experience has been and how sad she feels.

More recently, however, her posts have become increasingly bleak. She shares that she's having trouble sleeping and she is so sad and feels completely alone because she has no more family. She gets supportive comments from her Facebook "friends," but continues to sound hopeless. She has started posting that she's going to get off FB because all she can talk about is her brother and she knows everyone is sick of hearing about it. She writes that she does not think she will be here much longer.

I know that someone who hints at suicide should not be dismissed, especially given her experience with her brother's suicide. We went to school decades ago but were not close friends. I don't know her personally very well, and we live several hours apart. How can I help her if she really is thinking about suicide? It seems critical to me, but I don't know what I should do or how fast to act. -- CARING IN VIRGINIA

DEAR CARING: Contact your friend through messaging on Facebook, tell her you are concerned about her, and ask to talk with her. You are right to be concerned. Urge her to join a grief support group or talk with a mental health professional about her loss and feelings of depression and isolation. Give her the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. If she calls the hotline, she may be able to get a referral there. You are being a good friend. Let's hope she takes our advice.

Read more in: Death | Friends & Neighbors | Mental Health