Brian has just returned to his dorm room after his girlfriend Jennifer has broken up with him. His roommate Jack, who has noticed that Brian has seemed depressed for the past several weeks, recognizes Brian’s withdrawn and sullen demeanor yet again. Jack decides to ask him how he is doing.
Jack: What’s up, Brian? You look kind of down.
Brian: Yeah …
Jack: So … what’s up? What’s going on?
Brian: It’s Jennifer.
Jack: What happened?
Brian: She dumped me.
Jack: Oh, dude, I’m sorry. That sucks.
Brian: Yeah it does.
Jack: You must be bummed out. Sorry about that.
Brian: Yeah …
Brian goes silent.
Jack: You okay?
Brian: I can’t deal with this.
Jack: What do you mean?
Brian: Everything was perfect. She just … life was awesome with her. And now it sucks. And nothing I can say will change her mind. She doesn’t want to be with me. What the hell can I do? I …
Brian: I don’t know what to do?
Jack: You’re okay. It’ll just take some time.
Brian: I don’t know …
Jack: Brian, this has been going on for weeks now.
Brian: And now it’s over. No matter what I do; no matter what I say …
Brian does not know what to say. The two sit in silence. Finally …
Jack: How’s school? Have you been able to catch up yet? I remember you told me that you got behind having to deal with all this…
Brian: No, I have not caught up.
Jack: Can I help?
Brian: There’s nothing that you can do. I just have to do my work … I’m just letting everyone down …
Jack: No you’re not. You’re not letting me down.
Brian: You have to sit and listen to this garbage.
Jack: You’re fine. Listen … Jack … I am concerned about you.
Brian: Don’t worry. I’ll figure it out. Just take care of whatever you need to take care of. Go do your thing
Jack: I will take care of whatever I want to take care of. And right now, I am worried about you. I didn’t want to say anything, but now I have to. First of all, you have been drinking like a fish. Even Moose doesn’t drink as much as you’ve been drinking … (Jack doesn’t respond) … And what’s up with the cuts on your arm?
Brian: Jennifer was freaking out about those, too.
Jack: Of course she was!
Brian: Well they’re nothing for you to worry about. It’s my thing, and I’m fine.
They sit in silence
Jack: What do you mean think that you are letting everyone down?
Brian: Everyone has to constantly worry about me, and tip toe around me. And I’m always a bummer. I am just a burden to everyone.
Jack: No you’re not. You are just going through a tough time. We all do at some point.
Brian: Yeah, but not this. I just …
Brian: It’s too messed up at this point. I can’t fix it. And I can’t deal with it. Sometimes…
Jack: What? (no answer) Sometimes what?
Brian: Sometimes it’s not worth going on.
Jack: Don’t say that!
Brian: I wonder if she’d miss me?
Jack: Brian … (Brian does not respond) … Brian, does it ever get so bad that you think about, you know …
Jack: You know … harming yourself
Brian: The cutting is no big deal.
Jack: I’m not talking about the cutting. I mean … have you ever thought about …?
Brian: What? Knocking myself off?
Jack: Okay, sure.
Brian: Maybe… Life sucks. And no one would care anyway. So, yeah, sometimes I think … why not?
Jack: Brian, I would care.
Brian: You’re a pal.
Jack: Brian, seriously. … You’ve thought about … killing yourself?
Jack: Okay, but …
Brian: My parents made me go talk to a therapist last year when things were bad like this. I never did anything … except maybe cut my arms; but I don’t usually feel like dying when I do that. Things really suck though. Dude, could you talk to Jennifer, help her understand how I feel about her? Tell her she should give me another chance?
Jack: Brian, I am sorry that things haven’t been working out for you two, but I don’t think it’s my place to try to get Jennifer to change her mind. And besides, Jennifer is my friend too. It’s just not my place … (Brian doesn’t respond) Man, I am really concerned about you right now. Have you thought about going back and talking to a therapist? You could call CAPS and someone could see you there. I could even walk over with you if you wanted.
Brian: No, I don’t want to talk to anyone else. There’s no point talking to a therapist. It won’t help. I’d rather deal with this myself … or maybe talk to you when I need to.
Jack: I am happy to listen to you whenever you need me to. And am happy to be a good friend like you’ve been for me. But at this point I am at the limits of my abilities. I’m not an expert on psychology. I can’t help you fix what is going on. But a therapist can. That’s what they’re trained to do.
Brian: Dude, you’re not going to go telling anybody, are you?
Jack: Brian, I’ve been worried about you for while now. I feel like I haveto do something more. I mean, look at yourself. It’s not good.
Jack: You know, CAPS is not only free, but only confidential. No one will know. Not even your parents if you don’t want them to. But I’m sure that they’ll love to hear that you are back in therapy. Besides, even if people did know, nobody is going to look down on you. I know of several friends who have been in therapy, and it’s really helped them. Dude, no one cares!
Brian doesn’t answer
Jack: Brian, you know if I decide that I am really worried that you are going to harm yourself, then there’s no way I could keep that a secret. I would have to tell someone.
Brian: Jack, don’t tell anyone
Jack: Brian, I’m your friend. And I really care about you. And I am absolutely positive that if you go get the help and support you need, then things will get better for you. It’s not the end of the world. People break up with people all the time. You have been through some tough times; but you are smart and talented, and a good person and there are a lot of people who care about you. I know you can get through this. Just get yourself some help! (Pause) At least tell me that you are not going to … do anything rash.
Brian: Okay, I’m not going to do anything rash. Just don’t tell anybody.
Over the next couple of days, Jack notices that Brian continues to be depressed and withdrawn, and it looks like he has a couple of fresh cuts on his arm. Brian has continued to make some vague references about things being pointless. Jack decides to call CAPS to consult about what to do now.
Jack: Hi. I’ve been worried about my roommate. I am thinking there is a possibility that he may want to … you know …take his own life. But then again, he might not. What do I do?
CAPS: What is making you think that he wants to take his own life?
Jack: Basically, for like the last couple months, he has been really depressed. And a few weeks ago his girlfriend broke up with him. He’s been drinking a ton -- which hasn’t helped any because he just withdraws afterward – and he makes vague statements like “It’s not worth it. There’s no point,” and “Nobody would care. I’m just a burden to everyone.” Plus, he told me he thought about seriously sometime last year.
CAPS: Do you know if he has he ever tried to harm himself or said that he wanted to in any specific way?
Jack: I know he has been cutting on his arm some. But I don’t know what that means. And he says that that’s somehow different. So, besides that, as far as I know he hasn’t. But I know he has thought about it. Also, he seems more despondent and impulsive after he’s been drinking. Like this one time, he was walking in the middle of the street late at night and not even caring that cars might him and kill him.
CAPS: Have you encouraged him to come over to CAPS?
Jack: I tried to get him to go to y’all, but he won’t call and make an appointment.
CAPS: Okay, first of all, it appears you have good reason to be concerned about him. It’s good that you are noticing all these things and calling us. You are a very good friend. You might try speaking to him again and telling him that how he has been acting in the past few days really concerns you. Ask him again if he would be willing to come over to CAPS? If you’re comfortable with it, tell him that you will walk over with him to make the appointment.
Jack: But what if it doesn’t work? It didn’t work the last time.
CAPS: I understand. If he doesn’t respond to this, you will need to get him some other support. You might start by speaking with your RA or community director and seeing if they can speak with him. You could also ask the Dean of Students Office to get involved; they could check on your roommate to make sure he is safe and getting the help he needs. But, if at any point you have reason to believe he is about to harm himself, please call us either us or campus police right away.
Jack: Okay … But he told me he didn’t want me to tell anyone else about this. I don’t want to betray his trust.
CAPS: I understand how you are feeling. But there is enough concern here about his safety that the most important thing right now is for someone to assess what is going on with him and provide him with the resources that he needs. He might feel upset with you for telling folks, but, most often, students in that much distress will understand that you mean well and they actually appreciate that you have taken them seriously.
Jack: Uh huh …
CAPS: Listen: Don’t take on the responsibility of dealing with this by yourself. You have been an amazing friend. Your friend is lucky to have you looking out for him. But, he clearly needs help that you can’t give him. And I want to suggest that you don’t make any assumptions about whether he will be safe when you have significant reason to worry about him.
Jack: You know this whole thing has been freaking me out.
CAPS: Of course. You are taking on a lot. I imagine it’s been a difficult time for you. Please: feel free to come in and see us yourself if you want to talk to someone about how this affecting you. We would happy to help in any way that we can.
At this point in this situation CAPS would follow up by making sure that someone had checked in with Brian to provide support and make sure he would be safe