Post # 1
Good morning bees, I need your help…
I have entertained the idea of posting about this for a while but I didn’t wait to air my co-workers dirty laundry all over the internet. Lately though, the issues have gotten worse and I need some advice from unbiased third parties.
Heres the deal, my co-worker is in her late 30’s and has a son from a past relationship. The kid is 12 and neither she or her son have much contact with the father (total deadbeat from what I gather). In our office she’s known as the “crazy” one. Shes totally unstable but up until recently I didnt think it was that big of a deal.
Lately though, her life has kind of went into the shitter. She’s a single mom trying to make ends meet and her kid is difficult (to say the least). She is up until 1 or 2 am with him every day just trying to get his homework done. He doesn’t help her around the house and is pretty lazy in general. He has ADD so that explains some of his issues but my co-worker does not have the patience required to deal with his disease.
My co-worker, lets call her Sue, doesnt have any friends so for some reason she shares EVERYTHING with me (for god-sakes she even tells me when shes on her period! Eww). Over the last few years she has made many a comment in regards to suicide. She’s overly dramatic and cries at just about anything. I don’t want to get into specifics but she talks about coming home to find her son dead (hypothetical of course but she says these things openly and without any sort of hesitation). She’s also made many comments (more than I can even remember) about killing herself. She cries on the way to work everyday (I know this because she tells me and because its obvious by her face when she gets in that she was bawling her eyes out). She also cries probably 3-4 times a week during work. Why you ask? I have no idea…
Now, I really do think that she is all talk and no action. I honestly dont think that she would ever do anything to hurt herself or her son but I guess I could never be 100% sure. My family and friends that I have talked to about this have all told me I need to do something about it. I have thought about going to HR but something would obviously be said to her if I did that and since I am the only person she confides in at work, it would be obvious who the source was. My department is small (just us two and our boss). I can’t afford for there to be any tension as we’re all already stressed out enough. However on the other hand, if something were to happen I would feel terrible having known about the threats and not doing anything about it.
So bees, if you were me what would you do?
Post # 3
I would suggest to her she talks to her family doctor about finding a counsellor (there are lots of free services) and likely going on some sort of course of treatment for what likely sounds like depression and a lot of stress in her life. Being a single mom for a kid who has medical issues, and is a handful to start with can’t be easy. I imagine her emotional highs and lows are likely affecting your workplace with it being such a small department which isn’t very fair to you either. If you could find some info about free counselling services in your area, maybe that would be a good start for her. A lot of the time the hardest part for someone is taking that first step down the path. If you hand her the information it may make it that bit easier for her to call.
Good luck hon. This must be really hard for you too. You’re in a really awkward position here.
Post # 4
I guess since she is so comfortable with you you could sit her down and talk to her. Tell her that it makes you uneasy when she makes those comments. Try to come off as helpful and concerned and see where that goes before suggesting some psychological help.
As for her son with ADD ( its not a disease) just a neurological disorder where many people find it difficult to concentrate so it can be difficult to keep him on task. I have worked with many students and children with ADD and it can be difficult. She needs to remember that if you ask someone with ADD to do something in two hours they are not going to remember (especially children) you need to ask them at the point of performance. Their brains just have a different way of processsing.
I understand why you are uncomfortable and I would be too. I couldnt imagine someone telling me these things – and like you I would worry about if she went through with it and I did nothing. I would try to talk to her about it but not push the issue just to see what her response might be. I worry about you as well and if she is unstable you may want to keep some kind of distance as well.
Goodluck – I am pretty sure the awesome Bees out there will have some way way way better advice then me…..I wouldnt know what to do.
I wonder if your work has someone people can talk to? Some offices or places have counsellors that they will refer their employees too.
Post # 5
Yikes! I have very little advice, because on the one hand, you obviously don’t want her to commit suicide; on the other, you may not want to be her “one friend” if you know what I mean.
But I can tell you that a few years ago one of my college students committed suicide. This wasn’t even a case where he had confided in me at all, but he came to office hours and I knew who he was and I have never been so consumed by guilt in my life. I went to therapy and although I know that it’s obviously not my fault and really out of my hands, I can’t help but to be angry with myself that I didn’t notice.
I do think that there is a way to talk to her about it without becoming her BFF, but you are choosing to be involved. I think that you can confront her straight out and say, “You’ve been talking about suicide. I want to make sure that you’re okay. Are you really considering that?” I also had a kid who was struggling with suicide (my university must suck at dealing wtih undergrads–they’re all unhappy) and I was the one who took him to counseling–like, literally walked with him to the clinic and stayed with him while he put his name in. The clinic called me later to thank me for doing it because they said that it’s hardest for people to take that first step and they oftentimes need someone to literally walk them through it. But it’s not like that kid decided I was his savior. I saw him on and off and checked in with him and made it clear the door was open, but I think that we respected each-other’s space and our rolls–he was a student; I was his teacher–not BFFs, in the end.
Post # 6
@s_h_e_l_b_s: She always refers to is as a disease so thats why I assumed it was. I dont know much about the disorder but thanks for clarifying! 🙂
I’ve had some family and friends tell me to talk to her about it but I just dont think thats an option. She will feel threatened and will completely shut down (and probably cry). The whole situation is just so upsetting for me. I know it sounds selfish, but I didn’t sign up for this!
As for the counseling, she already sees a psychologist though I doubt she brings up these feelings in her appointments. For some reason, it seems like its only me she talks to about these things.
Post # 7
@UpstateCait: Could you be sneaky and find out her psychologist’s name and call? I feel bad this is all coming down on you, but I would feel the same as you, you wouldn’t want something to happen and then be consumed by it for the rest of your life. To a degree, I wonder if she’s saying these things simply for attention, but on the other hand, if she’s not, it’s not worth risking. Plus I would be concerned that if you talked to your boss about it that somehow she might lose her job and do you really want to be responsible for that? I think somehow you need to help her take the next step towards getting better whether it’s by making her psychologist aware of the situation or talking to her directly about it. I don’t think it can be left as is.
Post # 8
@bakerella: I’ve considered the fact that maybe its all for attention but I’ve known her for more than 3 years and she is not at all a “look at me” type of person. I genuinely think she is just so unhappy with her life that sometimes she just wants to end it. If it were me in her situation I’m sure I would be miserable too but I don’t think I would ever say the things she says.
She also has kind of a weird relationship with her son. Apparently, she made comments to my old boss about how she (at the time, which was about 2 years ago) still bathed her son. He’s 12 now so that would put him at around 10. We all thought this was weird since I know that when I was 10, I was fully capable of showering myself. I dont know if she still does it (god, I hope not). But this is just one thing (of many) that makes the whole situation even weirder. She’s even told me that he reminds her so much of his father and she “hates” his father.
Post # 9
you could find free counseling in the area and give her the information. Also if you feel her child is in danger you can call child protective services. Or you can call a suicide hotline the next time she says she is going to kill herself. They will take her to the hospital and put her on a suicide watch. They will also talk to her about medication, her problems, and give her a social worker.
Post # 10
There are so many red flags here I don’t even know where to begin. Clearly not knowing this lady or the whole situation/context it’s hard to say, but it all sounds really strange and potentially dangerous. Maybe you should talk to your boss about it. I don’t really know what the answer is other than clearly this isn’t a problem you alone should be trying to help with, I think there should be help from someone else whether it’s via your work, doctors, social workers, I’m not sure. I think the amount you can help here is somewhat limited without entangling yourself in this more and becoming her sole support system which is something it sounds like you’re uncomfortable with (and I would be too), and isn’t a position you should be in with a coworker you’re not friends with outside of your office.
Post # 11
this is scary and very serious. I am so sorry that you are in this situation. could you live with yourself if you dont do anything and she ends up committing suicide or hurting her son? i think you should talk to your boss about it. if they do nothing you need to talk to her. if that does not get anywhere tell HR. You have to do something! She is telling you these things because she really does want help.
From someone who used to be in a very emotional bad situation…i talked to someone about it because deep down i wanted help. They talked to my family and I got help. If it would not have been for that person telling, I am not sure what would have happened. Please dont ignore her cries for help! best of luck!
Post # 12
Thanks for your advice ladies. This has been going on for a LONG time. Every time she says something I tell myself that the next time she brings up suicide or hating her life is going to be the time I do something about it but I have, obviously, yet to do so. Our other co-worker knows about the issues too (she used to work in our department but now is in another department but still sits with us). “Sue” doesn’t confide in her but she’s not shy about making her threats known so other people do over hear them.
Post # 13
I feel terrible for saying this but I am throwing the vote for calling child protective services and tell them EXACTLY everything your telling us. Especially the bathing thing. I agree. ADD is NOT a disease and is very manageable if you are willing to even try to deal with it. You would be surprised how many people you probably know that has it. Its not some form of retardation or anything like that. It really makes me think this mother really isn’t giving her son the time of day. If she still bathed him up until 2 years ago then that IS creepy, weird and something that needs attention. I also hate to say this but most people who “brag” about commiting suicide dont. She needs help now.
Call CPS and don’t worry about her losing her son. It takes ALOT for them to take a child away. But they do HAVE to look into her situation and get her any kind of help she needs. Good luck!!
Post # 14
I agree with MissFlipFlops.
However, I would call the adult protective services instead. You can be anonymous. They will go to her home and talk to her and do an evaluation. They will also offer services that may be able to help her. It seems to me like she is very overwhelmed with what is going on in her life and would benefit greatly from some extra help.
Post # 15
By chance does your employer have some sort of Employee Assistance Program that provides a few free counseling sessions for employees? If your HR department is discreet, they should be able to approach her in a way in which “they” have been noticing a problem with her, not that someone has come to them about her.
APS is for people who are elderly and/or have disabilities. This doesn’t sound like a situation in which APS would be called. CPS on the other hand….yes if she continues to speak about bathing with her son (or more).
This sounds like a woman who is stressed beyond belief, in need of parenting skills & maybe finding a group for parents with kids w/ADD. Imagine if you cried everyday at work; you’d probably feel embarassed, silly and wondering why you can’t pull it together just for 8 hours.
Post # 16
Honestly, I think you need to report this to the police or adult protective services. I recently had a coworker/acquaintance who had a daughter she loved, a ton of friends – and a dramatic personality. She wasn’t as obvious as your coworker here, but did make a lot of dangerous-sounding statements. Well, a month ago, she killed herself. I was devastated even though I didn’t know her well. I miss her a lot and wish I could’ve done something. I wish I would’ve noticed the signs.
At any rate, your coworker sounds seriously depressed. Crying on the way to work is a sign that her emotions are out of control. I do not think this is mere drama on her part. I think she needs help. I know, it sucks that you’re the one who knows so much about this and sure, you shouldn’t have to be responsible for her drama. But I think she sounds like a danger to herself and possibly to her son. She needs to be clinically assessed before a tragedy happens.
I had a friend who did once threaten suicide and we called the police on her. I had the inkling it was an all-talk threat but she was taken to a mental health facility anyway and assessed for 72 hours. She completely re-evaluated her life after that and I think she is the better for it. We lost the friendship, but maybe saved her life.
At the very least, mention something to Human Resources. They’ll keep it confidential (or they’re supposed to, anyway.)