does updating your LinkedIn profile make it look like you’re job searching, telling your bosses there won’t be holiday gifts this year, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. We might have found a coworker’s suicide to-do list

I have a second part-time job at a retail store and I am usually there only once or twice a week. I normally work with “Betty” and sometimes with “Ethel.” They both often complain of working with another coworker, “Veronica,” saying that she snaps at them, is emotional, and often leaves work for seemingly no reason and cries often. While some of this behavior is probably true, Betty and Ethel tend to pile on and make it worse.

Yesterday, I noticed that Ethel was upset. I asked why and she told Betty and me that Veronica had left her planner at the store and she looked through it. She said that she noticed a list that seemed like Veronica intended to commit suicide. She said she had called to let Veronica know that her planner was there, but said nothing else. I asked to see the list, assuming that it was just misconstrued. It did include items like “make will, pick out funeral outfit, make plan, pick place, say goodbye.” The interesting thing to note is, this was not laid out as a cry for help. It was deep in the planner under a Post-It note. I am not really sure how Ethel found it.

I don’t talk to Veronica very much, usually we pass each other between shifts. The owner of the shop probably doesn’t want to hear this as he has gotten several complaints about Veronica. It’s a small shop, so no EAP. Veronica’s roommate actually works at the same shop, and I am friendly with him. I am really at a loss because I know she would be embarrassed to know we looked at her planner. Is there anything I should do, or should I keep my mouth shut?

Oof. Any chance that this is actually a list of things she needs to do related to a terminally ill loved one?

If not … It sounds like Ethel and Betty aren’t very nice to Veronica and thus aren’t equipped at all to be playing a role in this. And Ethel apparently snooped through her private stuff to the point that she found something “deep in the planner under a Post-It note,” which is really crappy behavior and points toward her really, really needing to back off and work on her respect for other people and their privacy. (I would rethink any friendship you have with Ethel, by the way; she doesn’t sound like a great person.)

I would say the best things you can do are to be really kind to Veronica and encourage Ethel and Betty to do the same. If you had a relationship with Veronica beyond passing her between shifts, I’d say you could talk to her and ask how she’s doing, and be ready with the phone number of a suicide hotline or other resources, but given the context, I don’t know that you’re really positioned to do that.

But I’m definitely out of my depth here, and I’d welcome other people’s thoughts on this.

Updated to add: Please check the comments section for helpful resources that have been suggested by a number of commenters.

2. Does updating your LinkedIn profile make it look like you’re job searching?

Recently, a coworker was in the process of transitioning out of the company due to various reasons (under-performing, unexplained absences due to personal issues, etc.). He had expressed to the owner (we’re a small company) that he wanted to take some time to figure things out before finding a new job, but then the owner noticed he was adding connections on LinkedIn and interpreted that as this employee must be actively looking for work.

Is there a general impression when you update your LinkedIn that it means you’re actively or even passively looking for a new job? The owner added me as a connection and I’ve recently gotten a promotion and wanted to change my job title and responsibilities, but don’t want him to think it means I’m looking for something new. Should I just hold off on updating since I’m really not looking to leave any time soon? I’m wondering if his interpretation was specific to the coworker’s situation or if he’ll jump to conclusions with my updates as well.

It’s true that if there’s a sudden flurry of activity on your LinkedIn profile when previously there’s been very little, some managers do wonder if you’re job searching. Much of the time, it’s a silly thing to assume because people use LinkedIn for all sorts of things beyond job searching — networking with contacts for their current position, looking up old colleagues, etc.

But updating your profile after a promotion is a very normal thing to do, so I wouldn’t worry about doing that. (There’s also a way to turn off notifications that go out when you’ve updated your profile, so the only way someone would notice if it they were actively monitoring your profile.)

If you’re worried, though, you could always say to the owner, “Hey, in case you notice that I’ve been updating my LinkedIn, it’s because of the promotion. I didn’t want you to misinterpret!” It might be smart to add, “Although I play around with it from time to time just for fun too — so please don’t ever read anything into changes there.”

3. How can I tell our bosses that we’re not going to buy them Christmas gifts this year?

I’ve read several of your posts regarding the etiquette surrounding Christmas presents. Well, every year someone in the department solicits money for gift cards for our boss, as well as her boss and her boss’ assistant. We’ve been asked to contribute $50 every year. I have always hated this tradition but have felt pressured not to make waves. In return, our superiors give us generous gifts, although these items are not things any of us want. This “tradition” has been going on for at least 10 years, and gifts are presented almost ceremonially on a specific day when there is a holiday lunch.

This year I am the leader of our group, so I want to use my influence to stop the flow of gifts upward. I’m quite sure all the people who typically donate would be fine ending this practice, especially since almost half do not celebrate Christmas. It’s the managers who are more likely to be offended by the department suddenly stopping the gift giving without any discussion. I feel comfortable enough to address this directly with my boss, but how should I handle her boss? I don’t feel that I’m in a position to talk to her about it, and my boss has a terrible relationship with her own boss.

Send an email to your boss’s boss and the assistant and say something like this: “I mentioned this to Jane, and I wanted to let the two of you know as well: I’ve realized that our tradition of collecting money from the staff to buy holiday gifts has been putting financial pressure on people at an expensive time of year, and I’ve found that people can feel pretty awkward about not contributing even if they can’t afford it. Because of that, we’re going to do cards rather than gifts this year — and I wanted to let you know in advance so it doesn’t seem like a personal slight! It’s definitely not — it’s just about trying to be sensitive to people’s budgets.”

4. Announcing my resignation to my team when I work remotely

I used to work at our company office in city A. Two months ago, I moved to another office in city B but am still working with/for the same team. I’m very close with my colleagues in city A since we communicate every day.

Now that a new opportunity has presented itself to me, I’ve decided to leave my current job. I’m just unsure how to announce my resignation. If I were remote to begin with, I would not hesitate to do it via phone calls/emails. But since I moved away only two months ago, I felt I should do it in person.

Besides, sometime before my last day, I’ll probably need to go back to the old office anyway, since there will be knowledge transfer and other matters that should be handled in person. However, just showing up at the old office out of the blue could seem extremely strange, too! Could you please give me some thoughts on this?

It’s generally better to tell people sooner rather than later, and I don’t think this is news that’s essential to communicate in person when you work in a different city. I actually think there’s very little news that’s essential to communicate in person, other than things like closing the business or firing someone — things with bigger impact than a coworker resigning.

Your manager would almost certainly prefer to have the news sooner rather than later, so call her as soon as you’re ready to share it. Everyone else, call or email, whichever you prefer. Plus, your time at the old office for knowledge transfer needs to be a different day than the day you share your news — because you need to schedule the former with people and can’t just show up and expect people to do it without any advance notice.)

5. Recruiter wants me to put an objective on my resume

A recruiter recently asked me to place a career objective at the top of my resume. Having followed your website, I know that objectives are outdated and a waste of valuable space. Nonetheless, do I follow her advice when applying to jobs through her? (I already know not to apply this advice under any other circumstances.)

I have difficulty making this judgement without knowing the behind-the-scenes process of recruiting. Do recruiters preview resume submissions, and am I likely to be filtered out for this omission? Or are resumes sent directly to their clients?

Some recruiters have very specific requirements for the resumes of candidates they’re working with. In fact, some recruiters even rewrite candidates’ resumes without their knowledge or okay, so at least this one isn’t doing that! Recruiters also sometimes remove candidates’ contact info before passing resumes along (because their arrangement with employers is that they “own” the contact and need to be in charge of any back and forth).

So yes, when you’re working with this recruiter, do it her way … but you can secretly judge her love of objectives.

{ 375 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami

    OP#1: Go to suicide[dot]org
    They have trained counselors who can help you figure out what to do.

    Sending a virtual hug to you and Veronica.

    1. Paige Turner

      Yes, please do. You can also go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273 TALK, but please don’t sit this one out. If you’ve ever heard of the comedian Chris Gethard, the message he puts out is, if you know someone who might be struggling, assume you’re the only one who will help. Not trying to put a lot of pressure on OP, but it’s really worth it to talk to these experts, talk with Veronica, with her roommate. If it’s all a big misunderstanding, then you can go back to only seeing her once a week or so- it could be awkward, but you can both get past that. Please update us on this one.

    2. Marzipan

      #1, I am going to post (in a reply to this comment, so it may not show up immediately) a link to a leaflet called ‘It’s safe to talk about suicide’. It’s a UK leaflet so the helplines/contacts won’t be so relevant elsewhere and you’ll need to find the local equivalents, but the concept – that if you’re worried someone is feeling suicidal, it’s safe to ask the person if they are – holds true wherever you are.

    3. Green Tea Pot

      Yes! Talk to an expert ASAP. I was in a similar situation once in college and ended up calling the dean of students who was familiar with my friend’s situation and intervened. My friend, who had a serious physical illness lived another 30 years before dying of natural causes.

      And pull away from Betty and Ethel.

    4. JHS

      Agreed. I have experienced a friend’s suicide, and really you need to intervene now with the advice of professionals. Just the fact that you, a person who doesn’t know her well, cares about her could save her life. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. This list is definitely a sign. I don’t mean to pressure you but I missed signs in my case and you will always regret not acting if something happens to Veronica.

      1. Angelina

        100% agree that you should act now, and I also want to add that if something does happen, and if you do miss signs, it is not your fault. Talking with a professional and getting their guidance and help on this is the best thing you can do right now.

    5. do you really need to know?

      The further you’re away from Betty and Ethel, the better. I’d suggest asking a higher up to remind the staff to keep their noses out of others’ private business, but that’s pointless so I won’t. (We all know we should. We all know people who do it regardless, for whatever reason.) And thanks, OP #1, for your concern for Veronica–and the professional way you’re handling it! It’s a difficult situation to be in and you’ve done well. Sending good thoughts to you and Veronica!

      1. eplawyer

        Yes. Point out to Betty and Ethel that “piling on” when Veronica is upset does not help the situation. In other words, act like grown ups at work. Then follow the other advice here to talk to a professional.

      2. May

        Honestly I would alert Betty and Ethel’s manager that they have been going through a coworker’s personal belongings, which paired with your statement that they tend to complain about her and “pile on” seems like bullying.

        1. Jadelyn

          Please do let their manager know about the snooping in particular. Frankly, having coworkers who “pile on” and go through one’s personal belongings strikes me as the kind of thing that would exacerbate existing stress and depression. At the very least, they’re not helping; they could well be making things worse for Veronica.

        2. NPDBGJ

          Definitely get their manager involved. Depending on your locality, this could be a misdemeanor or crime, in addition to bad taste and bad…well everything.

          To be honest, I’d be terrified of what else Betty and Ethel are doing, and who they are doing it to. If you have any ability, maybe you look at moving them out or letting them go if they are ‘at-will’? I’m sure there is more that’s been “under the radar”. If they’re terrorizing one employee, then I’m fairly sure they’re doing that to others as well.

    6. Big10Professor

      Yes, don’t let this go. I have annual intervention training as part of my role, and the bottom line is that a half hour of awkwardness is far, far, far better than someone following through on their plans.

      1. Not So NewReader

        omg, yes, this. A family member had a difficult boss. Long story very short the family member was able to gain insight into the boss’ struggles. So her choices were a) give the boss resources for help and possibly encourage more anger or b) continue dealing with a boss who had escalating anger. My family member realized that the net result would be the same and she had nothing to lose. Scared crapless, she went into talk to her boss. Turned out it was much worse, the woman was suicidal. They build a plan, talked about options and ways of finding help.

        While my family member never thought of the boss as a good friend, the boss did think very highly of my family member. The boss dropped most of the BS she had been doing to my family member and they had a peaceful coexistence until the boss finally retired. My family member honestly believed that she saved her boss’ life and she believed that she provided her boss with an ally when the boss had no one.

        As you are saying here, that initial conversation was very nerve wracking, upset stomach/head ache that kind of nerve wracking.. But knowing how it played out in the long run, my family member never regretted taking a chance.

    7. irritable vowel

      Obviously, you need to take this seriously, but to be honest it sounds like it could also be a setup – that Ethel and Betty planted this post-it note as a really sick joke. I mean, if so, this would be like junior-high mean-girl type behavior, and let me state again that you need to proceed as if Veronica really did make this list and you found out out about it, but something about it just seems…off.

      1. One of the Sarahs

        I am possibly over-influenced by the name Veronica, and thinking Heathers, but that passed through my mind, just because the method of finding it was *so* bizarre.

      2. LD

        I think from the description that the message was under a post-it note, not on the post-it note, like Veronica didn’t want it to be seen accidentally by anyone who might have seen her open notebook. I hope Betty and Ethel didn’t write in the notebook!

      3. Not So NewReader

        If that is the case, that would almost be a relief in this story.

        Following this train of thought IF this is a set up by these two women then Veronica AND OP can go to the boss together and explain what happened.

        There are some things you just do not do in life, like yelling fire in a crowded theater. You just don’t do that if there is NO fire. Likewise, you do not fake other people’s suicidal thoughts. Assuming that OP’s boss is a sane boss, then probably Ethel and Betty would be on their way out if this plan were exposed. I say, let the chips fall where they may on this one.
        Go with it, OP. If it turns out to be some kind of prank or ploy, then deal with that once you know for certain.

    8. AMG

      Yes, please do look for professional resources. Being kind while not directly addressing it is not sufficient.

    9. Clever Name

      Also, keep in mind that Veronica’s life is more comfortable than Ethel’s comfort. If you need to approach Veronica saying “Ethel went through your stuff and showed it to me, no I’m concerned and would like to help.” do so, even though Ethel will probably be miffed.

      1. TootsNYC

        I agree. Feel totally free to throw Ethel under the bus (where she deserves to go, actually) if that’s the only opening you can find to talk to Veronica.

        Please, please do something. Even if it’s just suicide ideation–Veronica is in real pain, and that means real danger.

        I really like the advice to get some professional advice. And to find resources–you don’t have an EAP, but your community has professionals who will help. Be the person who finds them out for her, and hands them to her. And maybe who gently walks her through actually reaching out.
        Your superhero cape is waiting.

        1. LJL

          I’d still let Ethel know ahead of time so that she can be prepared for fallout. Good thoughts for all of you.

      2. Ask the question

        Hi there, I’ve worked in suicide prevention for a little over 4 years, and I absolutely agree with this. Be open, honest, and straightforward. Tell Veronica what happened and ask directly if she is thinking about suicide. Directly = “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Directly asking is NOT “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” Someone who is thinking about suicide is looking to end hurt, so they can answer you honestly “No, I’m not thinking about hurting myself.” and still be thinking about suicide. Also, there’s lots of research that supports asking these questions directly. It will not put ideas in someone’s head. If someone is thinking about suicide and someone asks them about it, generally they will feel relief.

        Make sure to have resources ready to support Veronica. As others have mentioned, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is fantastic: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and will route the call to the geographically closest hotline to get the caller real-time help. If you’re comfortable with it, offer to be with her/in the room if/when she calls.

        I’d be happy to provide more information and resources if requested. Please let me know.

        1. Jill

          I agree with everyone who’s saying not to let this go. But how to begin?

          I would suggest starting out like you might start with any conversation where you could be putting someone on the spot or creating awkwardness or embarassment: “I feel a bit awkward bringing this up, but you had left your planner on the table and, unfortunately some people decided to read through it. That was an incredible violation of your privacy and although I didn’t participate in that, one of the pages in it was brought to my attention. It has me particularly concerned because it reads a lot like you may be planning on taking drastic measures. I want you know that I respect your privacy and I don’t want to pry, but do want to make sure you’re OK….”

          …or however you feel it should be worded…but basically acknowledge that it’s awkward. Acknowledge that it was a violation of her privacy – and make it clear that you’re willing to help, but won’t pry further if she doesn’t want to discuss what’s really going on with that page.

  2. Stellaaaaa

    OP3: If I’m reading your email correctly, every year someone else is placed in charge of planning the holiday stuff and this year it’s you. Am I correct? If so, I’m not sure it would look great if you used your time as “committee leader” to simply do nothing. The optics of that aren’t great for you, and next year’s leader will just reinstate the gifts anyway. People are more likely to roll with a suggested alternative than to stop a tradition altogether. Could you make sure the holiday lunch is extra-good? Or perhaps you could plan an extra mini-party in line with non-Christian employees (I’m assuming it would be Hanukkah?). Maybe a pre-Thanksgiving lunch or a post-New Year one, just something a little different to show that you’re not slacking on the year that this responsibility fell into your lap.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I read it as the OP has been promoted to managing that team, not that she’s just in charge of holiday stuff or that it switches off each year. Maybe the OP can clarify?

      1. Jeanne

        I read it the way Stellaaaa did that the duty for collecting money and buying the gifts rotates. It probably has to rotate because people give the gift collector a hard time about handing over money. Crummy job.

    2. MK

      Eh, I don’t think the OP is planning to just do nothing with no explanation (which I agree would look like indifference, not a thought-out stance). But I do think she needs to discuss this with her team before she approaches the managers; if you are going to say that “people” are pressured to participate, you need to have back up, even if only in your own mind.

      1. OP3

        I am not the manager of the team, but there was a lot of turnover since last year, and the person who formerly organized the gift giving is no longer with the department. There was never a committee leader or anything like that. I know that others have felt pressured to contribute to the bosses’ gifts in the past, and now I am in a position to help put a stop to the upward flow of gifts since I have the longest tenure in the team.

        1. MK

          But why do you feel your longest tenure gives this power? Frankly, it sounds rather patronising to me. I think the fairest thing to do, assuming it’s reasonably practical, would be to let the whole team express their views and make a joint decision. Give them the facts (this has been a long-standing tradition, the person who was the motivating force behind it is gone, you feel it’s something best abolished) and hear what they say. If most agree with you, proceed with Alison’s advice. If they don’t, you can choose whether you want to make a stand by refusing to participate in the future or abide by the majority. But going straight to the bosses with this without even consulting your coworkers is a bad call, in my opinion.

          1. Patrick

            Your “patronizing” comment strikes me as a little rude/naive…tenured employees are generally the leaders in any office (regardless of title) and tenure often gives the standing to suggest a change like this. I am generally a fan of consensus, but as other commenters below have said other employees may not feel comfortable pushing back on this.

            If OP is willing to put their neck out sometimes that’s what needs to happen. I guarantee trying to come to a consensus in this situation is going to end up with everything staying the same. “Gifting up” is a fairly benign example of this, but having a referendum and asking everyone if they think (inappropriate thing) is OK is a recipe for nothing ever changing. It’s OK to just say “this is inappropriate and here’s how I propose changing it.”

            1. MK

              I don’t think it was rude and it certainly wasn’t naive. In my field people with tenure do have increased priviledges and responsibilities, but this is an official feature of the job, so I know how this can work. I agree that tenure gives the OP some leeway: she can be the one to raise the issue, while a new employee wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that, and she should be the one to have the conversation with the bosses.

              But no, I don’t agree it’s ok to say “this is inappropriate and here’s how I propose changing it”; because, while in this case gifting up is clearly inappropriate, on principle one person doesn’t get to decide what is a good practise or not (unless they actually have that authority). It’s more appropriate to say “I believe this is wrong, I am willing to be the one to tell the bosses it won’t happen again, what are your views?”, then hear what others think, then proceed from there.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                “I believe this is wrong, I am willing to be the one to tell the bosses it won’t happen again, what are your views?” isn’t all that different from “this is inappropriate and here’s how I propose changing it.”

                “Here’s how I propose changing it” inherently implies “what do you think?” Otherwise it would just be “I’m going to do it.”

            1. MK

              No, I don’t think it is. You can be patronizing with the best of intentions; in my experience, most patronizing people mean well. It’s great to try to help, but it’s the very definition of patronizing to march in and do something without asking them if they even need help and/or how they want this handled.

          2. the gold digger

            Any one person should have the power to veto this. Just because my co-workers want to give $50 for a boss’ present (and I highly doubt they do), I should not have to do so. This is not a consensus decision. This is a jury where one vote of “no” determines the outcome. (And it should be anonymous voting to avoid peer pressure!)

            1. MK

              But the OP is not just vetoing this for herself; she is thinking of announcing to the managers that there won’t be getting a gift this year, without apparently being in a position that has the authority to decide this. And I agree that anyone should be free to opt out.

              1. AshK413

                But it sounds like she does have the power to veto this or at least initiate some sort of change. I honestly don’t think this is as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be and I highly doubt that anyone would be incensed that they lost out on the opportunity to contribute $50 to their boss this year.

              2. Annie Moose

                She’s not standing outside the bosses’ office tackling anyone who comes near with a present. If someone else really wants to give their boss $50 this year, they still can do that on their own. (or they can go organize their own group gift, I suppose)

            2. Kore

              $50 also seems like a really high amount for an office gift everyone’s chipping in to? If everyone was chipping in $5 or $10 if they could afford it that would be one thing, but if I was expected to bring in $50 for a gift for the bosses I know I would resent it and I’m sure most of my coworkers would too.

              1. michelenyc

                While I am at a point in my career that I could afford $50 for a gift it would not be a gift for my boss. It is more important to me to show my assistant how much I appreciate her hard work and spend $50 on her Christmas gift.

              2. Jadelyn

                Seriously – where I am financially, $50 is the kind of gift amount I’d spend on my mother or my significant other, the top tier people in my life and on my gift-giving list. My “second tier” – siblings, close friends – gets about $20-30 each, and anyone below that either gets baked goods or something under $10. The idea of being pressured to contribute FIFTY DOLLARS for a gift to someone who makes at least twice as much money as I do (realistically, 3-4x as much) comes off as greedy and selfish on the part of the bosses.

                1. Stardust

                  Agreed! I think my gift tiers are very similar to what you mentioned. My reaction to reading that each staff is giving their bosses $50 is “wowzers, that’s a hunk of change”

              3. AnonAnalyst

                Yeah, $50 seems like a really high amount to me, too. I’m at a point in my career where $50 wouldn’t be a significant financial hardship, but it’s still more than I would normally be wiling to spend on something like this so it would really irritate me. Particularly because, as Jadelyn said, that would be for a gift for someone who earns at least double what I do.

                I’m also at a point in my career where I’m comfortable pushing back on stuff like this because I’m reasonably confident I can find employment elsewhere if needed, so if I were a new employee in this workplace and someone told me I was expected to give $50 for this, I would probably tell them to go pound sand.

              4. Alienor

                I could afford it, and I’m at a point in my career where my boss doesn’t make much more than I do, but I’d be annoyed on behalf of the many, many people in the office for whom it would probably be a hardship. Also, I might add that at a certain level, bosses tend to get a lot of holiday gifts from outside suppliers and partners that people lower down don’t receive (even I usually get a couple of small “thanks for the business” gift cards every year) so it’s not like they’ll be hurting for presents if the staff doesn’t pony up.

          3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            Employees with the longest tenure are often the ones looked to when it comes to office traditions or unspoken rules.

            And sometimes it really takes a tentured employee being willing to step in and tackle a difficult subject. Holiday gifting is an incredibly touch subject and no one wants to be the grinch who doesn’t contribute….but how many stories from people have we seen on *just* this blog where people being pressured into giving money has created an incredible burden?

            If someone still really wants to but something for their boss they can, the OP is just trying to remove the pressure for people.

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Yes, exactly. Seems like OP is doing a good thing here and using her seniority in the best way.

      2. MillersSpring

        I think she can say “people” feel pressured to contribute based on several years of observation without gathering that info this year, which might be tipped off to the boss and grandboss that they have dissent brewing.

        1. MK

          I disagree. People might indeed feel pressured, but that doesn’t mean they are willing to make a stand on this and change a long-standing tradition, no matter how problematic. The OP could find herself in an awkward position, if she uses Alison’s script with the higher-ups and then her coworkers start saying she wasn’t speaking for them (which may well happen, e.g. if they think these gifts are a small price to pay for cordial relationships with their bosses).

          1. OP3

            Of course I would discuss with my coworkers first, but the majority of them have not been around a full year yet and are not enmeshed in this practice that does not follow business etiquette at all. In fact, they are not aware of what has been done in the past yet. I’m surprised that you find my perspective patronizing.

            1. Mookie

              Ensuring a more equitable, ethical workplace is not patronizing. You’re in a position with some amount of authority and experience, given your tenure, so I think it’s admirable that you’re wanting to tackle this as an individual (with feedback and support from colleagues) and represent your team. Besides which, gifts flowing upwards, as you say, is an outdated, mildly harmful (morale-wise, especially) tradition, and your colleagues will benefit from learning this early on–while observing that it’s not controversial to abandon such a tradition and that your boss and boss’s boss won’t “retaliate,” because why should they?–and take it with them as they progress in their careers.

              1. LQ

                Gifting up is by default a non equitable workplace. You aren’t making the workplace more equal by expecting people to give gifts to their supervisors. I don’t understand how removing an unequal tradition that nearly by definition expects the subordinate to give money to someone who makes more money and in is a position to control their job in the future is making the workplace less equitable?

                1. Morning Glory

                  I think Mookie was saying that removing the unequal tradition will make the workplace more equitable, not less.

            2. Lady Blerd

              OP3, the internet is quick to judge so I wouldn’t put too much stock in the “patronizing” comment.

              My 0.02$CAD on this is like the others, discuss it with them before talking about it to your bosses. If the majority still want to do it, you could instead use your influence to stress the idea that people aren’t obligated to contribute. In fact, instead of soliciting, I say send an email and have those who are willing to pay to come to you instead.

            3. MK

              I don’ think your perspective is patronizing if by “I am in a position to help put a stop to the upward flow of gifts since I have the longest tenure in the team” you only meant you feel confident to raise the issue and be the frontperson who has the conversation with the bosses. I think that, because your letter jumped straight to “how do I tell them” I assumed you haven’t thought about consulting your coworkers.

              1. LBK

                I don’ think your perspective is patronizing if by “I am in a position to help put a stop to the upward flow of gifts since I have the longest tenure in the team” you only meant you feel confident to raise the issue and be the frontperson who has the conversation with the bosses.

                That’s exactly how I read it – not that she was appointing herself the spokeswoman for the team without any consideration for their opinions, but rather that out of everyone there, she’s the best positioned to be able to speak up without it seeming like an overreach or reflecting poorly on her.

                I think you may have read it like she was just making a unilateral decision on the behalf of others, which isn’t how I took it at all. Rather that the way things have shaken out, she’s in a position where she could kill off a tradition that most people probably don’t like, so she’s wondering how to go about it if indeed others are amenable (which, again, I can’t imagine anyone loves giving up fifty freakin’ dollars for something for their boss).

            4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

              I think what you are doing is commendable and I appreciate that you are stepping in now before a new group of employees is pulled into this tradition.

              I just keep thinking about how the letters from your new coworkers would sound…”Dear AAM, I started a new job three months ago and was just informed I need to contribute $50 to buy my boss a gift”…yikes.

          2. Morning Glory

            I think that saying a general “people are feeling pressured” means the OP is making a stand, not that any individual employees would feel like they were making a stand – the decision would be made on their behalf.

            I was an assistant for a while in a small office and gave $20-25 every year for the CEO’s gift, along with everyone else. If my supervisor had said she’d talked to CEO about it and they were changing the tradition in deference to everyone’s budgets during the holidays, that would have been a big relief for me.

            If she had asked me to take part in the decision so that the team could ‘jointly decide’ what to do, I would have never for a moment considered voting to abolish to CEO gift. Out of fear, discomfort, guilt at the thought of hurting the CEO’s feelings – there are a million reasons. I also would have been uncomfortable I was even being asked about it.

            I think the OP taking responsibility for the decision is great, and looks out for the other team members.

            1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

              This is an excellent point. No one wants to be the one that says to stop giving a gift. And no one wants to say to their coworkers that they can’t afford something that everyone else seems comfortable giving.

            2. LBK

              Yes, using a general “people are feeling pressured” is intended to avoid singling anyone out, including yourself. It’s not a concrete statement that you’ve polled the group and these are your findings that you’re presenting on their behalf.

    3. Mephyle

      I wouldn’t characterize this as ‘doing nothing‘ or ‘slacking’ by a long shot. There are two challenges here that take a lot of diplomacy and finesse: talking her co-workers to find out their true opinions (and in a way that doesn’t spoil OP’s goodwill if it turns out they’re enthusiastic about giving gifts to the bosses). If it turns out that everyone is on board with stopping the upward gift-giving, she then has to diplomatically pitch this to the bosses, again without leaving a bad taste as much as possible.
      The whole project has to be negotiated diplomatically if she isn’t going to be labeled as the anti-Christmas Grinch forever after by one party or another.

    4. Anon for today

      No real advice to add, I just agree with the comments that it’s OK to stop giving the bosses gifts.

      At my employer they do what they call an annual gift to the family who owns our company but really you are just donating money and it’s presented to a scholarship foundation as being “from” the owners. The owners are ok with this since they are not really getting a gift, something is being given in their name to help benefit higher education. There is no pressure to contribute/donate and I have never done so. It’s never been mentioned and I don’t feel that I’ve suffered any negative consequences from not doing so. I feel it’s truly voluntary and that’s why it works. Most years it’s about 5k that is collected and given to the scholarship foundation.

    5. Finman

      There is one piece I am not sure on in this question, and that is the boss’ assistant. I don’t know how much work she does for the team overall (ordering supplies, making sure the office runs smoothly, etc), but it may not be fair to lump the assistant in with the giving gifts up. I would have an issue in people pushing me for $50 for the boss and the skip boss, but if our skip boss’ assistant did a lot for the team in general, I wouldn’t be opposed to chipping in (voluntarily/anonymously) $5 to get some sort of appreciative gift for the assistant. I have done this before for a previous director’s admin who really made sure our team had everything we needed and kept the small things (big print jobs, collating, booking meetings/travel for everyone etc.) covered so we could focus on higher priorities.

      1. OP3

        Yes, I agree it’s a different situation with the assistant since she does work for the whole department.

    6. HannahS

      I certainly can’t speak for all Jews, but I have always found the “here, have a mini Chanukah celebration” to be annoying when it’s happened in the past. It always winds up feeling like the person feels guilty about the ongoing Christmas extravaganza and is giving me blue and white cupcake and a pat on the head so that I don’t complain. But Chanukah is a really minor holiday. The best way to make non Christians comfortable in the workplace is to not proselytize, give us our holidays off, and not make us participate in Christian (or secularized Christian) celebrations if we don’t want to.

      1. NPDBGJ

        As a Christian that works for a Jewish organization, that last sentence is gold. People there know I’m not Jewish and don’t know their customs – I covered that during the interviews phase, although I do occasionally trip over custom things some times – and they don’t expect me to participate in all theirr events, although I try to make things simply to build rapport.

        In short, my philosophy is – I’m not going to talk with you about Jesus (unless you ask), and I don’t expect you to try and get me to convert to Judaism. And if you do, expect polite, but firm pushback. :)

  3. Jeanne

    There are so many complications in the suicide story. The biggest one is that you don’t know Veronica well. What I would do is tell her you want her to know that Ethel most likely read every word in her planner. I’m sure you are a caring person but I can almost guarantee Veronica isn’t interested in discussing her suicidal thoughts with you or anyone at work. (I also have a nagging wonder if Ethel or Betty wrote the list. Why tell you and not the boss or roommate?) As difficult as it might be, I think you have to stay out of it.

    1. Zillah

      (I also have a nagging wonder if Ethel or Betty wrote the list. Why tell you and not the boss or roommate?)

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. I wouldn’t advise OP to stay out of it, because the potential consequences are so high, but step cautiously. My friend group has had a lot of struggles with mental health, including suicide thoughts and even attempts, but I’ve never known anyone to write a note like that.

      1. designbot

        ohhh, I hadn’t even thought of it from that perspective. I still think it’s worth talking to Veronica about, because if she did not write the list then she will know that Betty and Ethel are escalating things. If Veronica did write it, you have a chance to stop something terrible from happening.

      2. Jadelyn

        Honestly, I’ve made that kind of list a few times before in my life (although the list as described seems weirdly simplistic…mine was more reminders of all the social media accounts I needed to remember to shut down or post some kind of notice on so I didn’t leave people wondering what happened if I ghosted on them, or other specific things, rather than “pick place” – based on my experiences and those of my friends in similar places, if you’re thinking about suicide that much, the place-finding is an ongoing thing in the back of your mind, not something you sit down and do one day and then check off a list), and I buried that s*** DEEP – as in, hidden files on my computer in weird locations. This doesn’t sound like something a person in actual crisis would have written, there’s a lot of stuff that gives me an impression of “something a mentally-healthy person thinks suicidal people do” rather than “something done by an actual suicidal person”.

        1. Zillah

          This doesn’t sound like something a person in actual crisis would have written, there’s a lot of stuff that gives me an impression of “something a mentally-healthy person thinks suicidal people do” rather than “something done by an actual suicidal person”.

          Yes, exactly – this is kind of where I’m coming from. People deal with this kind of thing very differently, and I don’t want to discount the possibility that Veronica is in serious need of help – it’s just that while I’ve made lists like that, they’re usually a little more specific.

      3. General Ginger

        To be honest, I’ve written a list like that a couple of times; though mine was more like a list of people I only knew online who deserved to know why I wasn’t going to be around. Like Jadelyn, I buried mine as much as I could, and it was also more vague. For example, not “tell X person”, but just “X person”, so in case it was found, it was just a list of people or groups, something I could talk my way around. People are different, though, so someone else’s list could be more straight-forward.

      4. Cyrus

        Yeah, that was my thought too. I mean, “make will, pick out funeral outfit, make plan, pick place, say goodbye” just sounds off. The main thing is, do suicidal people actually pick their own funeral outfits? And “make plan” is so vague – if anything I’d expect to see a shopping list for the pills she would overdose on or something rather than “pick how to do it.” If she doesn’t know how to do it, all the rest is premature. Two scenarios seemed more likely to me than that this was actually a suicide planning note. One: something innocent, misconstrued. E.g. Veronica is getting ready to go to her aunt’s funeral, which will be an involved and complicated process because she’ll have to help with the estate or something, so she needs to say goodbye to whoever is watering her plants while she’s gone. It reminded her that she hasn’t written a will of her own yet. Or a to-do list for unrelated stuff, just what’s on her mind at the moment. Two: this is Ethel’s and Berry’s sick idea of a prank. Presumably the OP would have said if the handwriting was obviously different but maybe they tried to forge it, maybe the OP doesn’t have another sample of her handwriting to compare it to, who knows.

        This is totally ex recto, I can’t even claim similar experience with friends, I’m well aware that this may be insensitive to people who actually know what they’re talking about. OP should still approach this delicately with Veronica just in case. All I’m saying is, the list and how Ethel and Betty handled it seemed kinda weird to me.

      5. Lucy

        Please don’t equate your own personal experience with everyone’s experience. I’m glad others have chimed in below as I have also made similar lists. Just because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t make it a falsity.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      This is exactly what occurred to me while reading #1. It follows the narrative of a few of my personal experiences, where one or more bullies framed their victim as unstable or having some major mental health issue. However, I don’t think the OP can assume that that’s the case, and they might need to try to reach out, for the reasons expressed well in earlier comments. Sure, they really don’t know each other and the OP might not be able to help, but I know I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try my best to reach out to Veronica.

    3. NicoleK

      There isn’t enough info in the letter to suggest that Ethel or Betty wrote the list. And yes, people have been known to make to do lists before they harm themselves or others.

      1. Jadelyn

        Yes, some people do, but the items mentioned as being on the list don’t sound like the actual considerations of a suicidal person, so much as things a non-suicidal person thinks a suicidal person would need to do prior to the act. Given the other details about “piling on”, and the stigma around mental illness in general, I think it’s worth considering that bullies could well manipulate a situation to try to deliberately invoke that stigma on a victim.

        1. Natalie

          All the more reason to just speak to her about it directly, rather than hint around with asking if she’s okay or being extra nice. If it is fake, she will now know about it, and if it’s real you can talk with her.

        2. tigerlily

          To be fair, LW wrote “this list included things LIKE etc, etc, etc.” To me, that seems like the list is being paraphrased here for us by the non-suicidal Letter Writer and what she remembers of this list. This isn’t the list word for word as it was written by Veronica. So it’s pretty impossible for us to truly parse it or do any kind of close textual analysis to determine if it sounds legit or not.

          1. Golden Lioness

            This. Also, while there are certain common denominators, and while there could be some “funny business” on the part of the coworkers, you can’t assume someone is fabricating the list just because you wouldn’t write like that. People are individual and care about different things. We all hurt in different ways… especially in crisis, when you’re not thinking clearly (and I say this by my own personal experience). When I was making my list, mine was mental and I never wrote it down, but I did think bout the aftermath… in fact that small part was what started to bring me back from the brink.

            My thoughts are with you OP, especially with Veronica.

          2. Jadelyn

            That’s a fair point. I just worry about the possibility of bullies using something like that to deliberately cause issues for someone.

            1. Golden Lioness

              Absolutely! I wouldn’t put it past those horrible coworkers to do a cruel prank like that… However I see the 2 more logical choices (even though we have already covered many possibilities) as follows:

              a – she’s suicidal; and
              b- she’s dealing with someone with a terminal illness

      1. JHS

        Agreed. My friend committed suicide and it turned out, based on her letters/etc, she felt that no one cared about her. I wish so bad I could go back and tell her how much her friendship meant to me. I think someone Veronica doesn’t even know well reaching out and saying “you matter” could really save a life here. It can’t be underestimated. Sometimes people do things anyway–a lot of this is based on someone’s neurotransmitters, but I think the OP will always regret not doing something if Veronica does harm herself. It took me years and years of guilt and grief to get past the “I could have done more to stop it” phase. The signs are real, especially because it was in a private notebook. That is even more concerning to me after learning about the signs of suicide in grief training. People who are committed don’t announce their plans–they just do it.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas

          I totally agree. We lost my father-in-law to suicide and while we never found a “to-do” list, we realized after the fact that he had taken care of a lot of things (getting his will in order, paying for his burial place, etc) in the months before.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I lived in a small apartment strip when I first moved here, before I bought my craphole of a house. My neighbor there did exactly this and told everybody she was moving. She packed everything she owned, sold a major piece of furniture (which I would have bought from her unknowingly if I had the money because it was awesome). She gave me two of her books she thought I would like, a New York Public Library desk reference and a copy of Dicken’s Oliver Twist. Then she shot herself in the bedroom. The other neighbors had been worried about her –the husband broke in and found her.

            I had no idea she was planning to do this. :( She did leave a note–in it, she said I was the perfect neighbor for her. (Probably because I knew about her bipolar disorder and alcoholism and didn’t judge–we had talked about it some.) Her family kindly invited me to the funeral, but I didn’t go. I didn’t know them and it just felt awkward.

            I still have the books and will never give them up. I also have some refrigerator magnets she made for me. I hate that she did it, but I understand it, so I can’t judge her for it even now. Saying something would not have stopped it in this case, but it might in Veronica’s.

            Also, Betty and Ethel are awful. I don’t even know them and I can’t stand them. >:(

        2. Formica Dinette

          I am so sorry about your friend. Even though you can’t go back and change things for her, I hope you can find some comfort in knowing your comment here will help others.

      2. Cat steals keyboard

        Yep. Discussing it will NOT accelerate it. There is plenty of evidence to support this.

      3. Golden Lioness

        This!!! except for very extreme cases, where they will proceed with their plans regardless.

    4. Anna

      Veronica doesn’t have to discuss her feelings or what her exact plan is with the OP in order for the OP to step up and let Veronica know someone is aware of her plan and is there for her. I would much rather be embarrassed that I thought someone was planning suicide and deal with the consequences of the privacy violation than the alternative.

      Sometimes social mores point you in the exact wrong direction.

    5. Tequila Mockingbird

      We don’t even know it was a suicide note. It could have been a creative writing exercise, or (as Allison suggested) referring to someone else in Veronica’s life who is terminally ill.

    6. Cat steals keyboard

      If you think someone is at risk of suicide then staying out of it is not the right decision.

  4. Anon For This One

    OP1…Please, please say something. Talk to her somewhere quietly and privately. Tell her you’re sorry her privacy was invaded and you think that was gross and wrong (because it is gross and wrong) but that you couldn’t not talk to her after you heard. Tell her you know it could mean other things, but no matter what it means it sounds like she’s going through a tough time right now and if she wants you to be, you can be there to try to help her (which, if she is contemplating or planning suicide means referring her to professionals!!!)

    Others may disagree but please, please say something. We lost my sister a few years ago to suicide and it turns out her coworkers suspected but said nothing. I don’t blame them because this is really hard to know how to handle it. But if someone had said something maybe she’d still be alive?

    1. Paige Turner

      Also so sorry to hear about your sister. This is the sort of thing that most people don’t know how to handle, which is understandable. OP sounds like a caring person to have written in here rather than do nothing.

    2. Artemesia

      This. I had a boss who killed himself and many people had worried about the possibility. He was awful but no one wants another person to be in pain and to kill himself. I know at least one of the more senior people was going to do something to intervene but I don’t know if he ever did as the event happened after I had left to go to grad school — but the boss did follow through and do what we feared. Do something. I’d probably tell her her privacy had been invaded and you felt bad about it but were concerned and if she was struggling with this issue, there are resources to help and give her one or two numbers.

    3. V

      I agree that the OP should talk to Veronica here. Other comments have mentioned contacting professional first for ways to bring it up and that’s definitely the way to go, but not taking action doesn’t seem like a good option here. I’m sure your sister’s colleagues will always carry the same doubt with them and while it doesn’t compare to the loss of a loved one, that’s still a feeling that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

      OP1, please act on this. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life occasionally remembering Veronica and wondering if the fear of an uncomfortable conversation or the potential of this being an embarrassing misunderstanding stopped you from helping someone who hit her lowest point and needed help finding their way out.

    4. Former Retail Manager

      So sorry about your sister. And YES to everything you’ve suggested. I also wouldn’t mention who violated per privacy as that would likely be stirring the pot and adding to an already difficult work relationship it sounds like.

    5. anon for this one

      100% agree with this. We lost my cousin to suicide a couple years ago, and I wish someone could have done something to help. I don’t think this is a MYOB situation.

    6. Cucumberzucchini

      Yes to saying something. My cousin committed suicide in 2008 and everyone in the family was floored. We never in a million years would have thought he was depressed or suicidal. At least one of his close friends knew he was considering it and we were devastated that they didn’t reach out to family about it so we could try to help.

    7. Sunflower

      I totally agree. Best case scenario, it turns out to be nothing. Plus I think Veronica is entitled to know that people are either 1. Going through her belongings or 2. Making up stories about her(in the case that Ethel and Betty are lying/created the list themselves).

      Offer to put her in touch with resources she needs or assist her in that or anything else.

    8. Wren

      I am so sorry for your sister.

      I think it’s great advice to mention that it seems like she’s going through a rough period either way- as Alison mentioned, it *could* be something else. And if it’s not, I think that phrasing could help avoid the understandable defensiveness Veronica might have in response.

      (I know for my own mental illness, priority one at work is making sure my coworkers don’t suspect anything. I would be very quick to divert or come up with alternate explanations if anyone tried to tell me they were worried I was feeling suicidal.)

  5. Kiwi

    OP #1: Alison mentioned the possibility that a loved one of Veronica’s is terminally ill. I would like to add that it’s also possible that Veronica, herself, is terminally ill. She may be making plans for her own death (by natural causes) and the funeral to follow.

    This (or a terminally ill loved one) may also explain her stressed and emotional state, as well as leaving work for “seemingly no reason” (e.g. medical appointments, making arrangements privately).

    If things are as bad at work as suggested by the letter (Veronica’s co-worker snooped extensively through her planner?!), Veronica may not feel “safe” revealing that she (or a loved one) is dying, preferring to keep that to herself.

    I’m sure many of us can think of at least one place we’ve worked that we would keep this quiet for our own emotional “safety”.

    1. So Very Anonymous

      This is all why I think it makes sense for OP to talk about this with a professional first — and have it be a conversation with soneone (hotline or something) rather than just reading a website. There are a lot of messy factors here, including OP not being close to Veronica, and someone with professional experience may be able to run through scenarios with OP (and I think “Ethel made this up” is one of the scenarios to talk through).

    2. Anon today

      +100
      Can the room mate give any indication of whether she thinks Veronica is suicidal ? That might give some context.

      And I’d never be trusting those co-workers with anything again. I bet the suicide story is already being spread around. I think regardless of what the list was for Veronica should be informed that this has probably already been spread around.

      What a mess – I’m so sorry OP. You sound like a really decent person and I wish there were more like you around.

      1. designbot

        yeah I think the roommate is a great resource here. Tell him and see his reaction–whether he’s surprised or whether he says there’s something else going on in her family, but he’s in a position to know how to interpret this much better than OP and if there is another explanation could avoid hurting Veronica worse.

    3. Amanda

      I am living with a serious illness and that was the first explanation that came to my mind as well. I’m doing well at the moment, but the situation has caused me emotional stress and forced me to confront my own mortality, which has led to me making arrangements like on the list. I’m not sure what I would advise, but please keep the possibility in mind.

      1. O_Waite

        Longtime lurker, first-time commenter, because this was exactly what I was thinking: that Veronica or a loved one has a terminal illness. I’ve been there: Inrecognize that particular flavor of grief. Betty and Ethel are pressing the suicide narrative partly because it’s dramatic, and partly (I’d guess) out of guilty projection because they know they’ve been less than kind. If they help ‘save’ Veronica they can earn a cheap sort of absolution for their misbehavior.

        1. Amanda

          I also thought that if it was a true suicide list, it would’ve included a mention of methods. Life you, I just got a vibe from the post that Veronica is dealing with a serious illness. And if it comes out, she might be pushed out of her job, which could really be buoying her in a time of crisis.

          It could also be she is not sick, but has decided she should get her ducks in a row anyway, for a number of reasons. My parents and have had wills and funeral plans for decades, even though they are generally healthy. They just think it’s a smart idea. I’ve had a will and medical POA papers since I was 23 and perfectly healthy, after my illness I updated to add things like passwords, financial info, etc but not because I intend to kick the bucket anytime soon. But if things god forbid took an unexpected turn for the worse, I don’t want my family to have to deal with both grief and all the logistical crap. I’m a little surprised so many people are automatically jumping to suicide. Everyone is terminal, after all, and it’s good to be prepared.

          1. Brandy in TN

            Yes, Im a very practical person and we speak openly about wishes for death all the time and by 33 I had my will, POA etc. When my mom was in the hospital with heart issues, she had me, but I would’ve done anyway, show up with copies of her POA, etc to have on file in case of any issues. We even have death folders on the computer of in case of, what to do. How to access life ins, etc…

          2. Not So NewReader

            I have my own cemetery plot and stone. I have had it for 30 years. My father bought it when my mother died, it was cheap back in those days. I knew I wasn’t going any where for a while but, eh, why burden someone else years from now?

            You know, OP, the thought strikes me that she may not truly be suicidal but she may be facing a cancer scare or similar, so she is making plan B just in case. This could explain why the notes are general and not specific. I have had to talk with a few people about difficult subjects. The one common thread I found is that they NEVER said the worst case scenario thing I expected them to say. While what worried them was not good at all, it was not the terrible thing I thought it was going to be.

    4. straws

      Given that she’s been visibly stressed & upset, as well as leaving work frequently, that could be a good opener to check in with Veronica and/or her roommate. It wouldn’t be out of place at all to say that you noticed these things and wanted to check in with/on her. Some of the wording provided by other posters would be great to use after starting the conversation. It may lead to disclosing the privacy violation of reading her journal, but it may also allow the OP to avoid that aspect.

      1. N

        I agree, you can check in without letting her know what you heard. I also agree that talking with a professional can help a lot. Finally, I work in a field where I am not a counselor but frequently encounter people who are dealing with mental health issues. We’ve been trained to tell people that we’re worried about them, and (if we’re worried about suicide) to ask if they’ve ever thought of hurting themselves, or of suicide. It’s really scary to ask, but studies show that it doesn’t make suicide more likely (which is a common worry) but actually does allow people to get help. In my experience, I’ve asked a number of people, and most have said, ‘oh – no – things are hard but I’m totally fine. Thanks for asking, but I’m not thinking of anything like that,” or they’ve been relieved someone asked. If they say yes, you can tell them you care and help call a hotline and refer them, without having to get even more involved. Whether or not anyone is in a position to do that is up to that individual to decide, so I’m not posting because I think this is what the OP should do, but in case it helps even one other person who is thinking about asking someone about suicide and is worried it will put an idea into their heads. If you don’t feel comfortable asking about suicide, you can still show care and check in as straws suggested.

        1. Not So NewReader

          This is a really important point. While we dread using the word suicide in a sentence, when we ask someone if they are thinking of suicide they can actually become relieved (sometimes). This happens in part because when we drag our monsters out into the light of day the monsters become smaller. OTH, relief can happen because the person thinks, “You GET ME. You can actually see where things are at. I might actually be able to talk to you.”

    5. LizM

      This is a possibility, but please don’t use this possibility as a reason to not say anything. The risk that this is in fact a suicide list is too high.

      As others have mentioned, a suicide hotline can help you come up with a script that is sensitive to the fact that her privacy has been violated. Enlisting her roommate for help in the conversation may also help.

  6. WhiteBear

    #4. I would definitely give the standard 2 weeks notice or however long you were planning/are able to give. Call your boss and schedule a day to go into the office to take care of any final details. Send out a mass email to the rest of the team. Let them know how much you enjoyed working together but that you’re moving on. Let them know that over the next few weeks they can contact you with any questions etc. and that on X date you will be in the office to wrap things up, and maybe a group lunch could be planned to make your last day with everyone special. Congrats on the new job!

  7. Augusta Sugarbean

    #1 – Since you are friendly with the roommate, you might carefully ask him about Veronica. Something like “I heard Veronica has been upset at work lately. Is she doing okay?” And then see how he responds. Maybe he will tell you about a sick relative or similar and you can leave this alone – and maybe try to be a little friendlier to Veronica when you can. (And it’s pretty rich that Ethel is feeling all upset. She went looking for something and then found it. Way to make it about you, Ethel. Sheesh.)

    1. Yup

      That’s a great script, Augusta. I second that wording, and going to the roommate first — not normally advisable, but better in this case as the situation is so fraught.

    2. animaniactoo

      Hey, in Ethel’s defense, she just got her world view tilted and found out something that was upsetting. She’s allowed to feel bad about herself and what she’s been doing or what’s going on with Veronica.

      1. Anna

        Ethel can be upset, but having her world view tilted after snooping is a bit like being surprised you burned yourself after touching something clearly marked HOT. And then being pissed you got burned. She literally brought this on herself by being a shitty human.

        1. animaniactoo

          And that doesn’t make her an irredeemable human that we should just throw into a human trash dumpster for it.

          Sometimes, it’s experiences like that which shake people up and make them realize there’s a bigger picture.

          Yes, she did a bad thing and has been doing other bad things. Yes, she brought it on herself.

          But you know what she didn’t do here which does gain her some sympathy from me? She didn’t immediately trumpet what she’d found. She didn’t mock it as “Well that would solve a lot of problems”. She didn’t call the boss and try to make life even harder for Veronica.

          There are a lot of really shitty ways that she could have reacted to what she found, and it doesn’t sound like she’s doing any of them. She’s just – upset. Upset is a good thing to be. Upset means she’s human and gets the gravity of this.

          Will she rapidly become a great human being off of it? No. But I guarantee that ramming how awful she has been down her throat and not giving her any room or permission to react like a normal kind of a human is going to stop whatever progress she might make in its tracks. It is just as wrong to do to her as what she has done/been doing to Veronica.

          1. Anna

            It’s not even my privacy she violated, but the OP would have to come back and tell a tale of how much different Ethel is now to make me even care a smidge. I have very little sympathy.

          2. Not So NewReader

            If Ethel shows genuine remorse and makes changes in what she is doing then OP and Veronica can make their choices accordingly. Nothing is set in stone here, if one person changes then others do have the option of changing also.
            It would be ideal for Ethel to make full blown life changes in light of her learning experience here. Hopefully, Ethel will become a better person in some manner.

      2. Crazy Canuck

        Nope. She violated her co-workers privacy, so she loses all sympathy from me. If she was my employee, I’d fire her on the spot.

      3. Jadelyn

        It didn’t sound to me like she felt bad about herself or what she’s been doing, tbh. More just shocked and upset in general.

      4. Moonsaults

        I’m sensitive to Ethel as well in this case because I’m not sure of her age or maturity in general.

        As a child, my best friend died suddenly due to his vast medical issues. Not everyone knew he had those medical conditions, they did know that he was a different kind of boy. They picked on him and weren’t always kind given their limited scope, youth and the limited knowledge in general at the time.

        After his passing, a few of the aggressors were in shock and came forward to apologize for their bad behaviors and such. I still didn’t like them by any means but I knew that they weren’t much more than misguided in many ways and at least they had the decency to feel awful, so they were just self centered and generally rude.

  8. Torrance

    Speaking as a former & most likely future!Veronica, I think AAM’s advice is perfect. Just be decent to her. She’s an adult who is allowed to make her own choices regarding her personal autonomy &, given your comments about her boss, it sounds like interference could cause negative repercussions in her life– if Veronica has reasons why she is considering ending her life, the addition of being broke &/or homeless won’t tip the scales back in a positive direction.

    1. New Bee

      I’m not sure if I’m parsing your first line correctly, but I hope the lifeline/support resources in this thread can be helpful to you! 1-800-273-TALK

      1. Blue Anne

        You know, I’ve always found those helplines to be really… unhelpful. The people I’ve talked to on them often just aren’t very intelligent or don’t understand. Makes me feel even more isolated.

        A few months ago I called one because I was feeling desperate and mentioned how hard it has been to adjust to America when it wasn’t my choice to come back here. I want to be home in the UK. The woman talking to me said “Why would you even want to go back to a country that deported you?” like my home was a cheating boyfriend or something. Total lack of empathy.

        I dunno. I’ve just always felt that their priority is sending you an ambulance if you’ve already done something to yourself, and if not, getting you off the phone so they can get to the Real Suicidal People.

        1. Candi

          Wait, what? Where’d she get deported from? I’ve seen nothing in your comments here to indicate that!

          Sounds like you got a terrible person on the line. That is not your fault. Please don’t let people who are terrible or don’t care tarnish your view of those who honestly try to help.

          (Tongue firmly in cheek) If you run into such an arse again, you could point out even Ted Bundy spent time manning suicide hotlines, and got an award for it, so they’re less caring then a serial killer.

          (Really. Ann Rule worked with him.)

    2. Golden Lioness

      Please take care of yourself and ask help if you need it. I hope you know that people care. Hope you are well.

  9. Louise

    OP#1 : I don’t usually comment here, but as a mental health professional, please please please reach out to her. Do not ignore this because it’s the more comfortable and easier thing to do. Alert the owner of the shop, talk to her roommate, tell the other co-workers to back off. Being polite and nice is not enough. Asking in a roundabout way if she is ok is not enough. It doesn’t matter that you are not a close friend or family member. Don’t be afraid to be direct and ask if she is thinking of killing herself. Look for mobile crisis or crisis stabilization services in your area and have those numbers on hand. You can sit with her as she makes that call or accompany her to the ER where they will hold her until they are sure she is no longer a danger to herself or others. If you’re wrong it may be embarrassing, but if you’re right you may save her life. Please do not ignore this.

    You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for further advice/assistance/referral. 1-800-273-TALK.

      1. Amanda

        Yes, please don’t do that. In the case that Veronica herself is ill, jeopardizing her job could jepordize her few lines of stability she has in the middle of a crisis.

    1. Mirax

      I’d be very, very careful about invoking the ER; an involuntary hold can sometimes do a lot of damage to a person who is already struggling and leave them with even more issues to work through.

      1. blackcat

        Yeah, I used to advocate for taking people to the ER in this situation because it’s what I had heard was the best thing to do.

        And then a close friend went to the ER (voluntarily!) and was put on an involuntary hold for 5 days. The involuntary hold did not allow her to refused medications–and doctors didn’t believe her past experiences with several SSRIs all *increasing* suicidal thoughts. And then a med student groped her while she was too sedated to do anything about it.

        It was a *profoundly* traumatizing experience. If you talk to a professional and it sounds like hospitalization is in order, please, please, please offer to help do research on what hospitals have good psych departments. Apparently, the one my friend went to is known for being awful for psych patients. She should never have gone there. Had she ended up at a hospital 10 miles away, she likely would have been so much better off.

        The ER may be the best choice if someone is in absolute, immediate danger to themself. But if they’re making long term plans, there may be other options that are more likely to help in the long term. Calling a hotline–even national ones can direct you to local resources–is definitely the best route.

      2. Mookie

        Yes, this could end badly, in violence, or both. As has been recently and increasingly demonstrated, involving authorities vested with power to physically detain or injure people in an effort to manage another person’s emotional or psychological well-being can be dangerous to everyone and should only be done in an emergency and with care, consideration, and a contingency plan. Tread lightly in risking further harm to Veronica.

      3. Alton

        Yeah, sometimes an involuntary hold is necessary, but there are risks and trade-offs. It’s like any emergency medical treatment–an appendectomy carries risk, but if your appendix is about to burst, it’s worth it. But it’s not something that should be done just because someone might have appendicitis, before doing less invasive diagnostics.

        Fear of being involuntarily hospitalized can make people hesitant to seek help or speak honestly about their feelings, which is dangerous.

        1. Jadelyn

          “Fear of being involuntarily hospitalized can make people hesitant to seek help or speak honestly about their feelings, which is dangerous.”

          I wish more people realized this. You know where I practiced my ability to lie about my mental health to absolute perfection? In conversations with my therapist. The one person who I should be able to be honest with about how I’m doing mentally. Because I knew that if I indicated I was a danger to myself, he would have to involve the authorities, which is the kind of thing that just makes the situation worse. So the one person I should have been able to be open with about my suicidal thoughts was the one person I knew it wasn’t safe to talk to about them. That’s what the specter of involuntary commitment does to people. Please do not call the authorities, the ER, anything unless you are really truly 100% out of options.

          1. Cat steals keyboard

            I’m so sorry you had this experience. There are therapists who work with suicidal ideation if you ever feel you want to try again.

              1. Expat

                Yes, in most cases. The exact laws vary from state to state, but it’s wise to ask your therapist how they handle reports of suicidal ideation before you disclose your own. In fact, I think it’s wise to ask this question in the first session.

                1. Jadelyn

                  That’s a good point, re asking in the first session.

                  Honestly, for so long as mandated reporting exists, it will never be truly safe to admit suicidal ideation to anyone who falls into the mandated reporter category.

                2. Hrovitnir

                  Yeah, what Jadelyn said. I am willing to admit suicidal ideation but I’m *very* careful with the topic. Mandatory reporting makes sense but involuntary hospitalisation is often very traumatising so that’s absolutely going to be a consideration for most people in how much they will trust their therapist.

                  Realistically this applies to people who are scared they’re thinking of being violent to other people too. Like hell I would tell anyone if I was in that position. :/

                3. Candi

                  Add pedophilia to that list. If someone is feeling the impulses, but hasn’t and does not WANT to hurt anyone, in many states that doesn’t matter. Just admitting to the desire can get them slapped with penalties -when all they want is treatment and to protect others from themselves. So their only recourse are anonymous internet support groups.

                  @blackcat: That hospital is disgusting. One thing I learned dealing with my son’s and my own depression is a good doctor ALWAYS takes previous medication history into account. I bet that slimeball who grabbed where he shouldn’t didn’t get in trouble, either. (Might want to check local laws on that; it could be battery, assault, and/or sexual assault.)

          2. Golden Lioness

            That is really a tough one! I know I spoke about suicide with one of my therapists. Maybe because I was speaking openly and really sharing why, and really asking for help, but she never did anything other that continue to see me and talk to me. I think it may depend on the sense of urgency based on their professional opinion.

    2. Paula, with Two Kids

      When I called the hotline 20+ years ago, I was advised to take my friend to a nearby clinic, which was a voluntary place. They helped me plan what to do (I said I was taking him to lunch), gave me the address to go to, and were very supportive. Best phone call I ever made. The clinic talked him into calling his family, and all of the sudden he had so much support he had been afraid too ask for.

      I’m sure an ER would work, but most areas have emergency psychiatric clinics where helping crisis situations is routine.

    3. overcaffeinatedandqueer

      Plus, since this is retail- Veronica may be uninsured or badly insured. So even if it does help her, she will probably get stuck with a bill for up to 50,000!

    4. Big10Professor

      I agree. I am not a mental health professional, but I have annual training on this (they make us roleplay and such), and the point they drive home is that the worst-case scenario for asking is awkwardness.

      1. catsAreCool

        I have a relative who once made a remark around co-workers that made one of them think the relative might be suicidal (she wasn’t). The co-worker called her and let her know that the co-worker was concerned. The relative was grateful that the co-worker cared.

    5. Crazy Canuck

      I would strongly recommend against taking someone having a mental health crisis to an ER unless you are absolutely sure they are a risk to themselves. I have a horror story that I can’t go into because there is a pending court case, but believe me that it just made everything far, far worse.

    6. Moonsaults

      I agree that it should be looked into but this jumps the shark so fast, I’m worried about that train of thought.

      This varies greatly between regions I suspect but getting a involuntary hold on someone who is over 18 is next to impossible. We tried with a friend’s brother who is scarily suicidal but even when he got into a knock down, drag out fight with a family member, nope, even when the police were called it was shrugged off.

      To think that a list like that being found by a virtual stranger could get a hold put on someone is why people do not seek help in the first place. Veronica could even start down the road of saying that Ethel planted that in her planner to try to get her looking unstable since Ethel is a known bully of sorts it sounds like.

      It’s not just a risk of embarrassment, it’s a risk of more harm being inflicted on someone that have real long lasting effects.

    7. Expat

      This really is terrible advice. If you want to traumatize Veronica by stripping her of control over her own body, then yeah, call the ER. You can further humiliate her by alerting her boss. Be sure to absolve yourself of responsibility by insisting that any collateral damage was worth it because you potentially “saved a life”.

      Sarcasm aside, there are times when such drastic intervention may be warranted, but to leap into this situation without actually knowing what’s going on… Don’t. Bad psychiatric care can maim a person, especially if applied as the result of a misunderstanding. Talk to the roommate and to Veronica herself before you even consider doing this.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I know of a case where someone killed themselves BECAUSE of bad psychiatric care. The person was boxed into a corner and had no way out.

        People very seldom do well when boxed into a corner. This goes for all of life not just medical/psychiatric situations. It’s wise to keep as many avenues as possible open so the person can retain their autonomy, their ability to participate in/decide on their own solutions.

        You don’t have to have answers, OP. But you can ask questions and try to draw out what her next step towards getting good help might be.

        1. Anon Accountant

          +100 to this. People need to maintain some autonomy and ability to participate in their own decisions.

  10. Anon for this

    #1 – What a tough situation. This might sound paranoid, but is there any chance that Betty and Ethel planted that list to cause trouble for Veronica?

    This reminds me of an awful experience I had a few years ago, when I made a joke while talking with one of my coworkers (something to the effect of, “Ugh, if I have to sit through another meeting with Fergus, I’m going to shoot myself in the head.”). A couple of women who had a “mean girls” type of clique heard me say it and went crying to our manager that they thought I was suicidal and they were afraid I was going to bring a gun to work. The next day, the manager called me as I was driving to work and told me not to come in, and I was banned from company property until I received a psychological assessment, due to concerns about me being a danger to myself and others. I was on unpaid suspension for a week before I could even get an appointment with an EAP counselor, and then the greedy EAP counselor forced me to keep going to counseling — paying out of my own pocket after I used up my free sessions — for months as a condition of returning to work. If I had been suicidal, I am pretty sure this BS would have pushed me over the edge. So… There’s a suggestion for how NOT to handle this.

    1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

      FWIW, I think you should also realize that such hyperbole has no place in the office. For all you know, someone who had found their teenage son’s body on the floor after he shot himself a year prior might have overheard than comment and been pretty upset.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

          It’s not, but you’re generally expected to have a higher degree of decorum in the office than with friends outside of work.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

          It doesn’t invalidate it. They handled it badly. But she also had a role in setting the events into motion by joking in a way that’s just not appropriate in an office. The example I used also actually happened to someone I know who now tries to educate people on why such comments aren’t appropriate.

    2. Michelle

      Dang, your coworkers are dramatic.

      I understand Katie & Gaia’s comments regarding someone who has found their child after they committed suicide or concerns about workplace violence, but to me that is a so-not-serious type of comment by someone who is tired of endless, pointless meetings that it would not occur to me as being something to worry about.

      1. Brandy in TN

        I agree Michelle. I have to censor every last thing I say because you listening in might take offense. I have no time in my life for this drama.

      2. KellyK

        I agree, and unless they misheard or only heard half the comment, it sounds like they were being overdramatic deliberately. “Just shoot me already” kinds of comments are pretty common and well understood hyperbole.

        As far as the appropriateness, a lot of workplaces have a zero tolerance policy on anything that could be taken as a threat of harm. It would totally be reasonable for your boss to tell you to knock off those kinds of comments. But an unpaid suspension and a bunch of out of pocket medical expenses is *way* out of proportion for an offhand comment.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

          I agree with that. They did mishandle it. I did once tell an employee to stop joking like that but didn’t do an EAP referral or anything.

        2. Lissa

          Yup, I agree. And these comments may be inappropriate but they are still really really common, to the point that assuming people should “just know” not to make them — well, we’re not there yet IMO. Heck, there was a sitcom called “Just Shoot Me”! Also, it really doesn’t sound here like this person’s coworkers were upset by the comment so much as using it as a reason to get one over on her.

      3. Marzipan

        My professional training has often included the sentiment that sometimes when people make what sounds like a flippant comment, they do mean it literally. I do, quite often, have to ask people in very clear terms whether they are thinking of suicide, and sometimes the answer is yes. I do, when a young person tells me they can’t tell their parents about whatever problem is concerning them ‘or they’ll kill me’, have to recognise that in some families this would be the absolute truth. And so on. So, while I would appreciate that someone making this statement *probably* meant it as a joke, I might also need to follow up about it if I heard it. And I’m really not dramatic – quite the reverse; I’m really calm in a crisis (from long, long experience…)

    3. SecretSquirrel

      This sounds so close to what happened to my husband. He wrote a FB message, then took it down shortly after he posted it. However, someone from work saw it and reported it. He got time off from work and had to see EAP. The crazy thing is, he suffers from depression, OCD, and anxiety. He was just getting to a point where he was able to handle things and actually smile again. He was already seeing two docs for his problems – which work would not accept and still made him see EAP thus meaning three appointments to juggle. This set him back quite a bit, he had to use all his leave, then file for short term disability which cut his pay. It was not an easy time. On the flip side, he’s a heck of a lot more careful about what he posts now. While we appreciated that someone cared enough to say something, we both wish that the person who reported him (we never found out who) would have just come forward and said something to him. Sometimes it’s just better to be direct.

    4. Expat

      I once had a boss who, having sat through a series of meetings between feuding coworkers, remarked offhand: “If I have to attend one more meeting between those two, I’m going to smoke a joint first”. Clearly he should have been forced to submit to drug testing and to attend mandatory NA meetings until our employer could be certain he was not at risk for addiction-related misbehavior.

      Was it an appropriate comment? No. Could it have upset someone struggling with addiction? Absolutely. But come on, we need to start exercising some judgment in these matters. Let’s not tilt full speed at every vaguely windmill-shaped shadow.

  11. Thomas E

    #1: I guess that the way I would handle this situation is to ask her, and then get her help if she is thinking about suicide.

  12. Fluke Skywalker

    OP 1: Please, please don’t let this go. Maybe approach Veronica’s roommate first, see if you can get a sense from them about what’s going on. If it seems like she’s in trouble, talk to one of the counselors some of the other posters have mentioned, to help you know what the best approach is. I have been in Veronica’s position before (assuming that’s what’s really happening here), and if she really is in danger, she will absolutely push any help away. There’s a careful way to go about this that probably requires some outside assistance. And absolutely do not let Ethel and/or Betty know what’s going on. I’m fuming at the both of them.

  13. Naerose Eiren

    Re OP #1 – I’m a trainer in mental health and suicide intervention, and you absolutely have to say something. You may not be the right person to *do* anything about Veronica’s suicidal intent (if that is what it is) but it’s important for someone to ask who has a chance of not being a jerk about it, and who can then put Veronica in touch with people who can help.
    This link takes you to some very short guidelines on how to help someone you suspect is suicidal:
    https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/mhfa-guidelines-suicide-revised-2014.pdf
    As long as you come from a place of genuine concern, you’re more likely to get an honest answer. It might feel weird and icky to have the conversation because you’re not friends but you know what? Sometimes it’s a hell of a lot easier to talk to someone who isn’t a friend about it.

  14. Julia

    I disagree with any half hearted attempts to inquire about someone’s wellbeing. It isn’t wrong to ask someone if they have thoughts of suicide, and more importantly, if they’re making plans with times, etc.
    Direct, explicit questioning often reaches someone when indirect questioning may not. If someone seems high risk, inform them that you believe they need immediate help and call in a 5150, or your state’s equivalent. Do this kindly and calmly, and keep the person informed with every step.

    Asking the question can save someone’s life.

    http://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention-helping-someone-who-is-suicidal.htm

    1. Anononon

      I am not a professional in this, so I hope someone else can weigh in, but this sounds extreme to me. Immediately calling for an involuntary psychiatric hold? (Could a co-worker even do that?)

      1. SarahTheEntwife

        A coworker could certainly call 911 and report someone threatening suicide; whether that actually resulted in a psychiatric hold would probably depend on the exact situation, but I agree that this is really not a good idea unless someone is in an immediately life-threatening situation.

    2. insert witty name here

      I agree that this is extreme given what we know. As others have pointed out, it’s possible that Veronica has a terminal illness or is caring for someone who does. To immediately start asking her if she’s planning to commit suicide and calling for immediate help, when in all actuality it may be that her mother is dying, would be hurtful and unnecessary.

      1. AndersonDarling

        And the note could have been written years ago, or it could have been written by someone else.
        To me, it sounds like notes taken in a session at a nursing home while discussing the pending death of a loved one.

        1. Brandy in TN

          Correct. My dad just dealt with his mom passing and before she passed, he had a list of things to tick off as he got them done. Plan funeral, flowers, etc… If you saw this list and saw him being almost 70, you’d assume his parents were long dead and he was planning for himself.

          Heres the deal, you saw a list written by someone about something. You KNOW nothing though.

          Who actually wrote this? Why? Your not sure. And Id be livid if someone went thru my planner. You need to open, see name and shut.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            I agree. A few years ago, my very elderly grandmother had to move to a supportive care facility. One of the requirements was that the resident’s funeral had to be planned and arranged for in advance. I’m sure that if somebody who didn’t know what was going on came across my mother’s to-do list at this time, then they might have misinterpreted it. (I helped my mother through the funeral arranging portion, and it made me think that one of the kindest things I could do for my loved ones was plan my own funeral in advance. Even though my grandmother is still alive, my mother really had a hard time emotionally with everything.)

            I think the OP should just tell Veronica that Ethel was going through her planner and came across the to-do list and was talking about it. Veronica has a right to know that Ethel went through her private things and is gossiping about it. Based on how Veronica reacts, the OP can see how to proceed from there.

    3. Jesmlet

      I’m certified in Mental Health First Aid (it’s a real thing) and we’re taught to be very direct about the questions we ask. Being vague or indirect will only pay off if it ends up that they’re not actually thinking about it. Being vague or indirect could be disastrous if they are contemplating suicide. Calling for a psych hold without having all the information is not advisable but it’s always better safe than sorry.

      1. Zillah

        I think, though, that the “better safe than sorry” sentiment isnt quite the right one for this situation. It might be the right call, but there are very real consequences to involuntary psych holds, which is why the OP def needs to get more information.

        1. KellyK

          True. “Better safe than sorry” only applies when there’s a clear “safe” option and a clear “sorry” option. Since an involuntary psych hold can be traumatic and highly disruptive even when it’s necessary, it’s definitely not the “safe” option if it’s not necessary, and if you have the opportunity to get more information.

        2. Jesmlet

          Right, that is what I meant. Ask first, then proceed. It shouldn’t be ruled out completely if you genuinely have reason to believe there’s a good chance it will happen.

      2. Jadelyn

        You are aware that suicidal people are capable of lying and saying no we’re not, even if we are, right? Even in response to direct questions? Suicidal people aren’t the fae, it’s not like you can trap them into admitting it so long as you ask a direct question they can’t be vague in answering.

        Also, considering that the consequences of an involuntary commitment could well be to push a suicidal person INTO action, rather than AWAY from that action – if you’re already struggling, and you go through the trauma that is involuntary hospitalization, possibly lose your job and as a result potentially your housing, etc., do you really think that’s going to make someone LESS likely to follow through on suicidal plans? Yes, that’s a great way to help someone, by sabotaging what stability they still have. – this is definitely not a “better safe than sorry” kind of thing.

        1. Jesmlet

          I clearly said it’s not advisable. Better safe than sorry was in reference to once you have more clear information. Sorry if that wasn’t worded that way.

          Asking directly is always better than not asking at all or being very noncommittal about your concern. Or would you rather she be left alone and nothing done?

          1. Jadelyn

            You’re putting words in my mouth. I didn’t say anything about leaving her alone and doing nothing, I just think the heavy emphasis on “being direct” (from a couple of different people in this thread, not just you specifically) is less than useful given that, while it’s easier to deflect indirect inquiries, it’s still entirely possible to deflect direct inquiries too, and it feels as though the “ask directly” advice is being presented as some kind of magic bullet. Which, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of such inquiries more times than I care to remember, I find half amusing and half insulting.

            Being direct can help the conversation, sure. But it’s no guarantee that a suicidal person will open up about the issue, so I’d caution against presenting it as The Solution for that kind of conversation.

            1. Jesmlet

              You’re right, I interpreted your push back on being direct as if you’re saying it’s better not to ask at all and that’s not what you meant. My bad.

              While there’s never a one perfect Solution, this is how mental health care workers are trained to approach things. Being direct is better than a half-hearted attempt at sympathy and studies show it doesn’t actually make it more likely for attempts or completion than some people think.

              For anyone who’s interested: ALGEE
              Assess for risk (ask directly)
              Listen non-judgmentally
              Give reassurance and information
              Encourage appropriate professional help
              Encourage self-help and other support strategies

              As a last resort, and yes, better safe than sorry, if you think there’s still a risk for suicide, you should call someone that can provide more help that you can.

              1. Jadelyn

                I like that list. I agree that it’s better to be direct than to give generalities and platitudes. I’m just not sure that in this scenario, Veronica would be comfortable enough or trust a coworker enough to open up about it, regardless of how direct they are in asking about it, and I think I wasn’t clear about my response to “be direct” being intended more as a caveat or caution rather than an objection to the basic strategy.

            2. ZVA

              Can I ask what you might recommend instead of/in addition to being direct? It sounds like, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of inquiries like that, you might have some valuable insight…

              1. Jadelyn

                Jesmlet’s list is a good one – out of that, the key thing (in my experience) is listening NON-JUDGMENTALLY above all else. People who are dealing with suicidal ideation, especially if it’s chronic at all, are keenly aware of social stigma around mental health issues in general and suicide in particular, and it tends to result in people clamming up and refusing to share with people because they’re afraid of being judged.

                So I mean, do be direct. Absolutely. Just be aware that if you don’t have the level of trust with that person that would make them feel safe in opening up, all the directness in the world won’t get them to give you an affirmative admission of suicidal ideation. That’s what I was getting at with pushing back on the emphasis on being direct, because directness alone won’t make someone confess if they don’t trust you with that confession.

                If you want someone to open up, you have to help create the circumstances where they feel safe enough to tell you, by making it clear that you won’t judge them, you won’t think less of them, you care about their well-being and want to help. Try to restrain any shock or revulsion and don’t freak out, and remember that you’re talking to someone who is suffering extreme emotional and psychological pain.

                Because that’s what suicidal ideation is, at its core. Someone reaches the point where their pain exceeds their coping capacity, and suicidal ideation is the natural result. For me, and for those of my friends who I’ve spoken with about their experiences, we didn’t really want to *die* so much as we just wanted the pain to stop and were willing to do anything to make that happen. (Which is why something like “think how sad your family will be” is unhelpful at best and counterproductive at worst, because it neither increases one’s coping capacity, nor decreases the pain they’re in.)

                1. Golden Lioness

                  “…we didn’t really want to *die* so much as we just wanted the pain to stop and were willing to do anything to make that happen”

                  So much this. That was exactly how I felt. Thank you for saying this.

                2. Not So NewReader

                  I remember an ad in the 70s. It was a public service announcement about teen suicide. It said that some teens don’t actually want to die, they just want someone to pay attention to their concerns. At that time, this was not widely known and I was very impressed by the PSA. (I still remember it after all these years.) I think it probably helped a lot of people, both adults and teens.
                  I do think that the same holds true for adults. People want help but have lost hope of finding it.

                3. ZVA

                  we didn’t really want to *die* so much as we just wanted the pain to stop and were willing to do anything to make that happen.

                  I dealt with some suicidal ideation of my own when my abusive relationship ended ~5 years ago (tho I didn’t tell anyone at the time), and the above really rings true for me… Thank you for your thoughtful response.

              2. Expat

                You didn’t ask me, but since I think your question is really important, I hope you’ll forgive that I answer from my own perspective.

                People who have received training in crisis intervention seem to view a potentially suicidal acquaintance as a kind of challenge that can be solved by sticking to the right flow chart. The goal seems to be handing the acquaintance off to inpatient care- voluntarily or otherwise- after which, the acquaintance will be SAFE and you will be a hero who DID THE RIGHT THINGS.

                There are a lot of problems with this. First and foremost, inpatient care is not always “safe”. Once upon a time, I had depression. Then someone did this to me, and now I have depression and PTSD. Not every experience is as bad as mine was, but people either don’t understand or don’t believe what the conditions are like in some of these places. Inpatient care should always be the last resort, not the first thing people jump to.

                Don’t make it all about you, and what outcome would make you feel safe. Ask why a person is feeling suicidal, and really listen to the answers. Don’t assume that suicidal thoughts always go hand in hand with irrational thinking, and don’t treat them like a child. Ask them what they think would help them. You may be surprised by the answer: it may be something like “getting away from an abusive husband” or even “getting more than 2 hours of sleep”. You can then help refer them to the kind of care (domestic violence shelter, sleep specialist) that addresses the most pressing causes of the suicidal thoughts.

                I definitely recommend asking the acquaintance to promise not to make an attempt until they see a doctor. It’s possible they might lie, but on the receiving end, the trust and compassion inherent in this request has really moved me. Then help them make the appropriate appointment based on the previous conversation.

                To summarize: treat a suicidal person with dignity, respect and compassion. Do not approach the situation with a reductive set of acronyms.

                1. Expat

                  I read back through my own comment and wasn’t at all satisfied with it. There was too much of the previous discussion coloring my response. There are times where I really wish for an edit button. I’ve been trying to come up with a better one, but all my attempts have turned into similarly unsatisfying walls of text, so I’ll give up after I clarify one thing.

                  When I was asked to promise not to make an attempt until I’d seen a doctor, it was presented like this: “I care about you and I would be devastated if you were to die. I recognize that you’re in a lot of pain. Can you promise me you won’t take action until we try to find something that addresses your pain?”

                  What made this different for me was that it wasn’t dismissive or patronizing. It felt like a real conversation instead of a series of pre-scripted cliches. It helped identify a specific aspect of my situation that could be improved (in my case, insomnia) and got me over the initial hurdle of finding a specialist to address that.

                2. Not So NewReader

                  Very helpful comments here, Expat. Thank you for saying this.

                  I am sorry for your terrible experiences.

                3. ZVA

                  Expat, I’m so sorry to hear about your awful experiences, and I really appreciate your response; I read it with care and will take it to heart!

        2. Angelina

          Thanks for pointing this out. Direct questioning does seem much more likely to get a direct answer than indirect questioning, but yes, people should be aware it’s not magically guaranteed to find out the truth.

          As an aside- do you need someone to talk to? I’m at angelinha334@gmail.com if so.

          1. Jadelyn

            Thank you, Angelina – that’s very kind of you, but I’m actually doing well these days. It’s just that I spent about a decade and a half of my life with untreated major depression and chronic suicidal ideation, so I still very strongly identify with that…community, for lack of a better word. Demographic, maybe? And I tend to speak as though I’m still part of that, out of habit if nothing else. :)

        1. Cat steals keyboard

          Woah, missed the bit about the psych hold. No. Fear of involuntary commission is a huge barrier to seeking help and I would like to make clear that expressing suicidal thoughts to a professional should lead to them collaborating with you to keep you safe, not to being instantly sectioned. I’m going to defer to Alys Cole-King’s research into the importance of building resilience and empowering people to keep themselves safe.

          1. Jadelyn

            I’d never heard of Alys Cole-King, but a quick google turned up some really great stuff. I’ll have to read through that more when I get home tonight.

          2. Jesmlet

            This is always a last resort and ALGEE (see above) in my opinion is a really great tool. Sometimes you’re not always expressing these thoughts to a professional and non-professionals can’t force someone to seek help. 5150s are appropriate in certain situations and shouldn’t always be looked at negatively. They’re only bad if there’s no continuous care and support.

            1. Jadelyn

              I’m still going to have to disagree on involuntary commitment. The only situation in which it’s ever appropriate, in my opinion, is if the person is a danger *to others*, because then it’s to protect innocent bystanders. I just vehemently do not believe that it’s possible to “protect” someone or “save them from themselves” by further traumatizing them, and equally vehemently believe that stripping someone of their bodily autonomy is inherently traumatic, regardless of if it’s being done “for their own good”. I just don’t see how continuous care and support could possibly begin to change the fact that forcibly removing someone’s bodily autonomy is an inherently violent and violating act.

  15. Ellie H.

    When I was 17 and was in the first year of my job at a bookstore, someone called and asked to special order a book, about ways to commit suicide (I forget the title but it was evident from the title that that was the subject of the book ). It was someone who had ordered books from us before and whom I vaguely had a sense of as a recurring customer. I had no idea what to do and was really nervous and freaked out so I just ordered the book and didn’t mention it to anyone. When the book came in, my older coworker saw the book when we were calling people to let them know their books had come in, he knew the customer (pretty much all of our customers!) fairly well and called her and talked to her about it and talked her out of getting the book (we sent it back). I happened to be there at this time fortunately, and he told me that I should have told someone, which obviously I should have – it was a big mistake. (Whoever took the order had their name on the order form that got printed when the special order came in, so it was obvious that it was me and as I said, I was there when it came in.) I really regret that but at the same time it’s the kind of mistake I made at that age and wouldn’t make now. Anyway, everyone else gave great advice about where to go for resources. The way you found out about this sucks and Ethel and Betty are obviously awful, but you still must to do something now that you know. Research shows that people who are interrupted or obstructed from a specific plan to commit suicide most often DON’T go on to do it in a different way later, contrary to what a lot of people might believe, so this kind of intervention is incredibly meaningful. The helpguide link Julia posted above has a lot of information.

    1. Mookie

      Hmm, I don’t actually think you did anything wrong or suspect there. Just because someone’s reading, for example, the Anarchist Cookbook does not mean that they’re going to dabble in terrorism at some point. There are plenty of legitimate reasons (academic, amongst others) for purchase reading material about uncomfortable topics or illegal behavior.

      1. Alton

        I agree. I can see the wisdom in saying something, especially if the customer is well-known. But as a writer, I’ve researched all sorts of topics for my stories–including suicide methods.

        1. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night

          If someone looked at my browsing history and drew conclusions from it I’d probably be in jail or at least under some kind of investigation!

          1. Temperance

            I’m just creepy and strange. I’d probably be under investigation if the NSA bothered to check me out.

        2. overcaffeinatedandqueer

          I know! I am writing a YA novel, and so I completely freaked out my med student friend by asking the following, for research:

          1. Can dehydration cause seizures?

          2. Is it possible to do orthopedic surgery on a limb without general anesthetic or sedatives (local only?) Would the local even work beyond the skin surface level? Would the person die of shock?

          3. What happens/what’s the treatment if a person has both broken ribs and a chest cold (also, ow. My chest hurts thinking of that!)

          1. Maxwell Edison

            Ha! This reminds me of my late friend G, who during his life had worked in both a hospital and a morgue. He was also a writer and would cheerfully answer all my weird questions.

        3. Maxwell Edison

          This. For my novels, I’ve researched everything from suicide methods to domestic terrorist groups. And as an editor, I’ve had to fact-check all kinds of stuff. My browser/library history is just bizarre.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer

            I know! My browser history makes me look like an alt-right terrorist- because my protagonist is being hunted by neo-Nazis because she’s gay!

          2. SimontheGreyWarden

            I teach composition and I do a unit on literature, visual texts, etc. I joke with my students that I’m on so many lists for googling all kinds of images, all of which are looked up for teaching purposes…but it’s really, really surprising (and gross) how the line between p0rn and ads gets blurred.

        4. Another Writer

          Yes, and especially with NaNo coming up, I get paranoid! I write scifi, and the stuff I need to research sometimes makes me nervous.

        5. Charlotte Collins

          Yes! Mystery/crime writers often have the worst time of this… Also, I know somebody who was required to read a book about how to commit suicide as part of a medical ethics class.

          1. Maxwell Edison

            I once attended a writers’ conference where one of the panels featured a retired investigator who basically said, “Throw any question at me,” and he’d answer it because he knew we needed to know things for our stories. He only requested that we not record the panel because he didn’t want people to feel weird or worry that what they asked would be used against them somehow. It was one of the best panels I’ve ever been too – I have six pages of notes from it.

        6. Elizabeth West

          This. I know what book Ellie is referring to and had considered ordering it myself at one point, but I found what I needed on the internet. I’m quite sure I’m on a list because of all the crazy stuff I’ve googled. :P

      2. Karen K

        I agree with Alton and Robin. I understand wanting to help, but some things are just none of our business. I’d like to know that I could order whatever reading material that I wished without being judged. Remember, she cancelled the order with your shop, but there are many other places to get the same book.

        1. Amadeo

          I dunno. I don’t think it was wrong of the other employee to speak to the customer and make sure they are OK. There’s a fine line between minding your own business and reaching out to check on someone. Maybe you’ll feel silly afterwards once you get the ‘I’m a writer/I have strange tastes in reading material/I’m writing a research paper/etc.’, you’ll get over feeling silly, but imagine if you were right.

          1. catsAreCool

            Yeah, I think talking to the customer about it was the right thing to do.

            And I think this was an awful position for a 17 year old to be in; I wouldn’t have known what to do either.

            1. Amadeo

              Yes. I can’t say I would have known how to react and so therefore probably would have done the same thing – that is to say, nothing, when I was 17 too.

      3. Bumblebee

        Heh, my brother once pulled up the anarchist cookbook on the library computers at his middle school, and then printed the section about creating C4. He was just profoundly curious about the science – he is not a violent person at all, just super nerdy. He walked up to the printer where the librarian was replacing toner, and cheerfully made small talk while he waited for his pages. The librarian was chatting back happily, finished her stuff, and then pulled my brother’s document off to hand to him and saw what it was. they marched straight up to the office. They called up my dad, a nuclear physicist, and made him leave work to talk about it. So my dad is sitting in the principle’s office with my brother, the principle and vice principle are spitting fire, and when they’re done explaining what happened and tell him that they’re going to suspend my brother, he just sits there. ‘So, where is this forbidden in the rulebook, specifically?’ ‘It’s not in the rulebook, but it’s obviously illegal.’ ‘It’s not. Furthermore, you didn’t even restrict access to the website in question. It’s in bad taste, and thoughtless, but it’s neither illegal nor against the rules. You have no grounds for suspension.’ My brother did not get suspended, but I bet he’s on a government watch list somewhere. The middle school did some immediate revisions to the rulebook, and my brother was not allowed to use the library computers for the rest of the time he attended. I’m pretty sure the school district hates my whole family because of stuff like this.

        Anyway, sometimes you don’t even have a good reason – it’s just really interesting stuff. I went through a phase where I was reading a lot of true crime books about serial killers. I was not picking up tips.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          The public and academic (university-level) librarians I know would totally be on your brother’s side.

        2. Candi

          I read history of crime for fun. Forensics is awesome, and you can never be too educated about cons and scams -but there are some sick, sick people out there.

    2. Temperance

      I actually don’t think that you did anything wrong. I read all manner of strange and/or inappropriate books.

    3. Crazy Canuck

      If I special ordered a book and had someone call me and talk me out of picking it up, I would just order it from Amazon, and would never buy anything from that bookstore again. I don’t think younger you made a mistake at all, and I think your older co-worker overreached hard.

      1. Alton

        Yeah, without context, this could have gone a lot of ways. Maybe the customer was suicidal and implied/admitted as such when asked, or maybe the employee who questioned them pushed the issue and didn’t give up until the person agreed to cancel the order, and an unhappy writer had to get their book somewhere else. I don’t think it’s always a bad idea to speak up in instances like this, especially if there’s a relationship between the customer and the store. But employees don’t have a responsibility to prevent someone from getting information like this. And I’ve seen some instances where people were very pushy about insisting that someone has a problem even when they say they don’t, so you don’t want to go to that extreme, either.

    4. Ellie H

      Hi – thank you very much for the input and the responses. Based on these specific circumstances and the unique context, my coworker’s behavior was completely appropriate and the correct line of action to take and I really was mistaken in what I did. I actually don’t think that the outcome involved any refusal of service. I actually now regret sharing this incident as I didn’t realize it would provoke discussion, it just sprang to my mind, but I feel very confident in my take on the situation in its full and specific context. I definitely agree that many people are interested in researching topics that don’t reflect actions they intend to pursue and that people can buy whatever books they like, access them from a library, etc.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I went a gentler way with this one, because I figured your older coworker had basis for acting as she did. She probably knew some particulars of the customer’s setting and she was able to put two and two together.

        I have had that done for me and now that I am older I have done it for others. I hope you see the circle of life here. When I was a newbie worker I was not able to get an accurate read on everything that happened. A few times a more experienced worker jumped in just in time. Now that I am older, I realize that I have a similar unspoken responsibility. Okay at one job it was actually spoken, “You will be working with younger people because I expect you to jump in and fill their gaps.” Hey that was clear to me!

        I hope you have, or will, let yourself up for air on this one. There have been too many times where I have seen it take 2, 3 or more coworkers pulling in the same direction to help salvage a situation. The most important thing in your story was that the situation was handled. It was caught and it was handled, hang on to that thought. Hopefully, your older coworker spoke to you with respect and tact as she explained the problem. And hopefully, you have paid it forward by now so you can see that this is how work goes sometimes. Sometimes someone bails us out and sometimes we bail someone else out.

    5. Agile Phalanges

      Yeah, I checked out a similar (or the same?) book at the library once–I always browse the non-fiction section for interesting-sounding books and end up with a really odd variety. I was a bit shocked to realize it was a how-to book, and not purely academic, and even more shocked and how inaccurate it was at the aspects I actually knew enough about. (It correctly identified that the carotid is an artery that carries blood TO the brain and the jugular is a vein that drains blood FROM the brain, but incorrectly said that one runs up one side of one’s neck and the other runs down the other side, so if you want to hang yourself and cut off the blood supply before it gets to the brain, put the knot on the left, and if you want to build up the blood supply in your brain by cutting off the vein put it on your right (or vice versa) and just how DUMB is that in SO many ways…)

      But I was not then, nor have I ever been, suicidal. I’m just interested in lots of weird topics and macabre enough to not be turned off from reading such a book. However, I’m sure it wouldn’t have hurt to ask the person if they were thinking of killing themselves and offering help in the form of hotline numbers and websites, as lots of people here have suggested. I’m not sure cutting the person off from buying the book is appropriate, but I guess it couldn’t hurt. If they’re determined enough to read it, for whatever reason, they’ll just get it elsewhere, hence why referring them to help is more helpful than preventing access to the book.

  16. Regular Coffee Drinker

    Hey OP#1,

    This summer I was having suicidal ideations. I wasn’t planning, but I was thinking about all the things I needed to do before planning.

    My husband took me to the doctor’s office, and it was only there that I admitted the suicidal thoughts. Now that I’ve been on meds and therapy, I’m starting to recognize how many thoughts were the framework, and what I was doing to build upon that framework.

    Do not worry if Veronica is upset you read her planner. She’ll probably be angry. But if she’s been planning suicide, she might have left that planner for someone to read because saying “I hurt, I need help,” is fucking hard.

    1. Gaia

      I’m glad you are doing better now and that you are getting the help you need.

      I have heard time and again from people that contemplated suicide (or had suicidal ideations) that the one thing they thought was impossible was to admit they were hurting and needed help. Part of this is how our society views mental illness. We have to do better at this if we want to save lives.

  17. Harriet

    I second everyone saying to not let it go, OP1. I do know that it is an incredibly hard conversation to have, though. I am a suicide line counsellor and we had weeks of training aimed at getting us comfortable with talking about this stuff. Before I had that training I had been in the situation with a friend where I knew that I needed to ask them if they were suicidal, but I was terrified about what would happen if they said yes because I felt completely out of my depth about what to say at that point.

    A direct, kind question is incredibly valuable though. And if I was giving my previous self advice, I would tell myself that if she does say yes she’s suicidal you don’t have to come up with the magic words that will make everything better. Have some helpful resources to point her to, especially something like a helpline number where she can talk things through. And honestly – even a clumsy, awkward conversation is better than no conversation.

    Alison, would you mind considering amending your reply to include some of the information that has come up in the comments, and linking to a resource? I just think it’s so important that people talk about this stuff, it really can save lives.

  18. OrganizedChaos

    #5 I send my resume in a password protected pdf. I had an experience years ago where a recruiter added info to my resume that was false to get the commission and the interviewing party asked me about it since it was really job specific. I had to explain that the doctored version was not my work and luckily I had brought copies of the real resume per their request.

      1. Isben Takes Tea

        Eh, as a hiring manager, I would immediately pass over a password-protected resume. I would assume the applicant is overly paranoid/unaware of norms. A normal PDF should be fine (though if someone really, REALLY wanted to, they might be able to edit it, but it should appear obvious that it was doctored).

        1. Isben Takes Tea

          Also: if I have to forward Rob’s, Cersei’s, and Tywin’s resumes to my boss as the top three candidates, I’m not going to ask her to enter a password for Tywin’s. She doesn’t have time for that.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep, I wouldn’t advise doing this for exactly this reason. It’s letting one bad experience make you act in a way that will look very strange to 99% of other hiring managers.

          1. Cat steals keyboard

            Now I have more time I wanted to post some suggestions for a script for talking about suicide. OP1, I saw your update about telling the roommate and that sounds like it was a really good idea – don’t forget to take care of yourself too as it can be very worrying and stressful dealing with concerns that someone is feeling suicidal and you may find it catches up with you in a few weeks. I’m going to post this anyway in case it helps anyone who finds this on Google or whatever.

            Do:
            – Ask directly about suicide. Just to reiterate, this will not persuade, suggest or encourage – research has shown extensively that it helps as if someone feels suicidal it gives them the opportunity to say so. Ask direct questions: are you thinking about suicide? Have you made plans to end your life?
            – Ask open questions e.g. how long have you been feeling like this?
            – Listen more than you talk. You don’t need to fix it or have a magic answer, and attempting to do so may shut them down.
            – Ask what has been happening for them lately. Listen to the answers. Don’t rush in to fix problems – there may be concrete help (e.g. for debts) but prioritise listening first.
            – Tell them you are sorry they are in so much pain and ask if they feel able to make a plan to keep themselves safe. This could include calling a crisis line, talking to a doctor or distracting themselves.
            – Thank them for telling you about their feelings. Tell them they took a big step and they deserve help and support.

            Don’t:
            – Don’t ask them to reassure you that they won’t act on their feelings or tell them how bad you would feel if they did. Be upset for them, not with them. Focus on how THEY feel. You can talk about those feelings, e.g. to a helpline, but not to them.
            – Don’t ask closed questions, like: you aren’t serious are you, you wouldn’t do that would you?
            – Don’t guilt trip eg tell them their family would miss them. They will most likely feel guilty for having the feelings and stop opening up.
            – Don’t tell them suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or that it passes the pain onto someone else. That implies that their feelings matter less than other people’s. And their problems most likely don’t feel temporary.
            – Don’t assume people who mention it won’t do it. That’s a myth. Suicidal feelings should always be taken seriously.
            – Don’t assume they are ‘just’ attention seeking. And really someone in this much pain NEEDS attention!
            – Don’t go behind their back if you can avoid it, try to agree what to do together with them.
            – Don’t assume people bereaved by suicide won’t try themselves, it’s actually one of the biggest risk factors for death by suicide.

          2. Agile Phalanges

            And nothing will stop a determined recruiter from just mocking up a whole new resume for you in Word (and subsequently saving it as a PDF if they feel like it) if that’s what they feel like they need to do, so the only thing you can REALLY do to catch/prevent them is sneak a peek at “your” resume the first chance you get at an in-person resume, and find a way to offer your real one if you feel it’s necessary.

        3. Jadelyn

          It depends on where the password lock kicks in. If it’s password-protected to open, yeah, I’d pass. But if it opens without issue, only requiring a password if you try to edit (which is a thing you can choose to set), I don’t see what the problem is.

          Also – it’s not that hard to edit PDFs if they were converted to PDF via the Acrobat plugin for Word, and if you have Acrobat full rather than just Reader. I do it all the time for my work.

    1. Us, Too

      This exact thing happened to me, but I still won’t password protect my resume for the simple fact that it’s going to cause me to be excluded for practical reasons.

  19. Cat steals keyboard

    Good resource lists here:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/swresources

    Sorry not to pick out individual ones but don’t have much time and something is better than nothing. Also google Samaritans active listening.

    One thing to make clear is that you won’t ever encourage or persuade someone to take their life by asking about suicidal feelings. In fact this helps as it gives the person the opportunity to say they need help. It really is okay to ask.

    1. Cat steals keyboard

      PS sorry to sound abrupt, posting in a hurry. I work in suicide crisis intervention and I wanted to add that people who feel suicidal often don’t think they can bring it up with anyone or know how to get help. You can make a huge difference just by encouraging them to seek support.

  20. anonforthis

    OP1

    I would say regardless of your relationship you shouldn’t ignore potential suicidal thoughts. Having been there it’s an incredibly lonely place to be and I would never have felt someone was out of line for trying to help. It doesn’t have to be anything difficult just a ‘this is tough but Ethel read your diary and saw something which she believes might mean you’re having suicidal thoughts, I’m dealing with the Ethel side because it was a horrible thing to do but I wanted to speak to you as well… I’m probably not the best person to help you here and honestly I don’t know what to say but I wanted to give you some numbers of people who can help and encourage you to try them’

    you may get told you’ve misinterpreted something and then you don’t have to worry but at least you’ll know you tried either way… and Ethel won’t make a snarky comment about it in the future leaving the woman feeling like everyone knew and no one did anything/cared

    1. Not So NewReader

      Oddly, the person who feels they are not the best person sometimes turns out to be the RIGHT person. It’s strange how it goes that way.

  21. Lanon

    Maybe the cynic in me is showing, but #1 reads like the coworkers are attempting to bully Veronica out of the company by framing her as in danger of comitting suicide (lots of places fire for this, illegal or not).

    I mean it may not be that but its worth considering. Maybe they’re assuming that they can go to HR later with it and have you corroborate their story in order to get her fired.

    1. Artemesia

      This occurred to me too. I think I would approach Veronica as if it might well have been mis-interpretted so she also has some wiggle room but she needs to know her privacy has been invaded — and perhaps the note is a plant — in any case, she either needs help with suicide resources and kindness of strangers or she needs to know these people are bullying her — something needs to happen.

    2. NicoleK

      I didn’t see anything to suggest that the coworkers are fabricating things to make Veronica leave the company. Sure, it appears that Ethel and Betty aren’t too fond of Veronica but that doesn’t mean that they wish her ill will or will resort to planting suicide lists to frame her.

      1. Anna

        Yeah. This feels like a lot of weird gymnastics to avoid what is a difficult subject. The list has a feel of authenticity about it. I don’t give Betty and Ethel enough intellectual credit to be so subtle. Their list would be “Decide between poison or jumping off a cliff; find a cliff; pen suicide note; jump.”

        Again, the risk is between being embarrassed about invading Veronica’s privacy and completely misunderstanding a list OR finding out later she attempted and maybe succeeded in committing suicide. I know which I’d rather go with.

    3. Not So NewReader

      There could be any number of head games going on here.

      The first thing is to make sure Veronica is okay. If she is okay and this is all a hoax, then this problem can be dealt with second.

  22. Boo

    OP#1 I agree with other posters here you should reach out to a professional organisation who can advise you how to proceed, but I’ve not seen anyone else touch on the Mean Girls yet. I’d absolutely call them in and tell them that if this is repeated to anyone else then it is a disciplinary/possibly sackable offence. I’d also ream them out for digging around in Veronica’s stuff.

    1. Myrin

      It doesn’t seem like OP has any standing to do that, though – she’s only a part-time worker who’s there just one or two days a week, after all! Which doesn’t mean that she can’t express her feeling that this is an icky violation of privacy to Beth and Ethel, but she can’t really “call them in” and then threaten to discipline them because she isn’t in any way in a position to do so.

        1. Boo

          On reflection, I think then it’s even worse that Betty and Ethel are repeating what they’ve found to OP. I’d kind of assumed they’d done so because OP was their supervisor, (plus my reading comprehension before tea isn’t great!) but if she isn’t, then it’s really just gossiping about things they had no business seeing anyway. Ugh.

    2. Temperance

      I’m not getting where they are “Mean Girls”. It seems like Veronica is difficult to deal with, and they don’t know how to handle her mood swings and outbursts.

      1. ZVA

        “Betty and Ethel tend to pile on and make it worse”… also the fact that Ethel admitted to snooping through Veronica’s planner. It sounds like Veronica is hard to deal with, but I’m not getting the greatest feeling about these two!

        1. Temperance

          That’s absolutely fair. I have some sympathy for all involved – it sounds like Veronica is at the very least going through a tough time (or dealing with poorly treated/untreated mental illness), and Betty and Ethel are treating her like a person who is unpleasant and a poor employee. No one really ever teaches you how to deal with a person with those issues, and if she’s a jerk besides, it’s a recipe for disaster.

  23. esra (also a Canadian)

    #2: On your profile page, you can just toggle off updates. Unless someone is actively seeking out your profile, no one will notice.

    1. Telly

      I disagree with Alison’s suggested wording, “please don’t ever read anything into changes there.” That just sounds fishy and unnecessary!

      1. esra

        Yea, I think if OP makes a big deal of it, then it becomes a big deal. I’d just hide the updates, and then if anyone ask just nonchalantly say you like to keep it up-to-date, the promotion, etc etc.

      2. Trout 'Waver

        I agree. Anything you bring up is going to sound like protesting too much. As long as you toggle off update notifications, nobody will even notice.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m suggesting that for the OP because the owner shared with her that he just fired someone because of the conclusions he drew after the person updated LinkedIn. In her case, it’s relevant to say. (Otherwise I agree it would be weird.)

        1. OP#2

          Maybe I phrased that poorly. He had actually just given his 2 weeks notice and told the owner that he was holding off on finding a new job because of the issues he cited as a reason for not being able to work up to par. Owner had wanted to get rid of him for a few weeks but didn’t want to deal with the unemployment. It was after that that the owner noticed the LinkedIn activity and made the comment.

    2. OP#2

      I don’t know why I never noticed that there! Definitely doing this ASAP. I don’t think I’ll mention anything because I don’t want to stir up suspicion especially since there’s no basis to it anyways.

    1. Golden Lioness

      I was being interrupted so I finished reading quickly and I read “adjectives” instead of objectives… lol

  24. Jessie

    I agree with those who say OP should be direct with Veronica about this (rather than just being extra-nice to her in case.) Better an awkward conversation about how the list was actually for a family member in hospice than not taking action if it IS a suicide ideation. It also doesn’t really matter if this will make Ethel look bad for snooping.

  25. OP #1

    OP 1 here; thanks for all the comments. I am truly at a loss.

    A few things to note. Some people are suggesting that the note was planted to make Veronica look bad. I really don’t think that is the case. It would be a pretty big stretch.

    I had noticed that Ethel and Betty seem to talk a lot about Veronica, with Betty being the instigator most of the time. I work mostly with Betty and when I realized that it seemed to be a pattern, I started downplaying it. (“I’m sure she’s not that bad” “Maybe she is going through some rough times” “Oh you ladies can never get along” “Eyes on your own paper” etc.). I don’t think Betty is a bad person, I just think she is young, I have been guilty of some of this behavior at work when I was younger.

    I have reached out to Veronica with some banter on social media, I have also reached out to her roommate. My fear is that if she knew that her planner has been looked at, it may make things a lot worse.

    1. Michele

      Can you talk to your manager about this, at least to let him/her know that Betty to stop badmouthing Veronica? Maybe this is a help.

    2. Former Crisis Counselor

      OP #1,

      Call the suicide hotline. You can request that they reach out to Veronica and note that “A friend is concerned about you” without identifying you as that friend. That doesn’t always work, frequently people aren’t inclined to speak with a cold call from a crisis-line, but it can be helpful if they manage to get in touch with her.

    3. animaniactoo

      Here’s the thing – if she is actively suicidal and planning, it’s really not *possible* to get worse than where she’s at except by moving the timeline up – which is a lot less likely than that your action – showing you care, that you are concerned, that you are willing to reach out and be help in whatever way you can – will have a positive effect.

      Talk to some of the resources that people here have listed about how to approach. But you also need to grab some perspective here. I’m willing to bet that Veronica is already afraid that they looked through her planner. On some level, she’s expecting it – she knows who Betty and Ethel are.

      One question: Is it possible that she’s terminally ill and that the list is about figuring out and preparing to handle her death?

    4. ZVA

      Given what other commenters have said so far, I would urge you to be up front with Veronica. Tell her that Ethel looked through her planner and shared what she found with you. Acknowledge that this is a violation of Veronica’s privacy and may feel awful for her and awkward for you, but given the nature of what Ethel found you didn’t feel comfortable staying silent.

      When you say this might “make things a lot worse,” I’m not sure if you mean Veronica, Ethel, & Betty’s dynamic, Veronica’s mental health status (whatever it may be), or both—and it very well may, but I still think the benefits of speaking up outweigh the consequences in this case. Maybe Veronica has a terminally ill relative, as some here have suggested—or she maybe she is indeed planning her suicide. Either way, I just don’t see how speaking up can hurt—or can have a worse outcome than the worst outcome of all, aka Veronica’s suicide.

      I also think Veronica has a right to know what happened. If someone was snooping in my stuff at work—and gossiping about what they found!—I’d want to know about it… wouldn’t you?

    5. Natalie

      In addition to talking to Veronica, do you feel more comfortable being more direct with Betty? You don’t need to give her a lecture, just something blunt like “knock it off, Betty”. I’ve tried the kind of dissembling disagreement you mention, and it really didn’t do much.

    6. Chickaletta

      Regarding being afraid of making it worse when Veronica finds out someone read her planner, as long as you (or someone else) makes the point of the conversation to be concern for her, I don’t think it can make it any worse at this point. If knowledge of the list is just used to bully her more, then sure, it would probably make things worse. That’s why I agree with all the other comments about having that awkward conversation with her about being concerned for her wellbeing.

      I also worry that Betty and Ethel might let a crude comment slip someday when they’re feeling particularly snarky, now that they’ve been armed with this knowledge. You might want to reach out to Veronica sooner than later to get to her before they do, but I wonder what other readers think about this possible scenario.

    7. Not So NewReader

      Okay so you are afraid if she knows her planner was read things will get worse.
      Let’s do this here- give us an example of what you think could happen if she finds out her planner has been read. Let’s toss a few ideas around on this.

  26. VB

    Op1, please seek advice with a reputable suicide prevention service and then speak with Veronica (or have them call her). You can start it off by saying that, although it is despicable, her privacy was violated (not by you) but that the confidential information was shared with you. Tell her that you are concerned about what you learned and to urge her to seek out help. Is it possible that you could speak with her family? Please, whatever you do, don’t just ignore this. I was in the same position you were in a few years ago. My co worker told me he was planning to kill himself. Fortunately, I had another co worker who was also a pastor with a background in suicide prevention counseling, so I spoke with him and together we were able to talk him out of it. Tragically, the suicidal co worker did kill himself a couple of years later when he was fired from his job. It broke my heart, but I consoled myself by knowing that I at least made an effort to prevent his death.

    My son committed suicide 19 months ago so I can speak first hand as to how Veronica’s death would affect her parents and siblings. It is beyond heartbreaking. You feel as though a huge cannonball was blasted through your heart, leaving a huge gaping raw wound that will never heal. Thankfully with time and a good support system, the wound does begin to heal.

    All that to say, please, please, please do something! Don’t try to do this on your own, please seek help. Just know that you will have peace of mind knowing that you did the right thing even if Veronica ends up killing herself.

    1. OP #1

      I am so sorry about your son.

      Here is what I have done. I have contacted the roommate and told him what was going on. He was very thankful and said that he would talk to her that evening when he brings the planner home. His plan is to tell her that he found it while going through the planner. They are more friends than roommates, so it gives me a lot of comfort knowing that he is stepping in.

      I almost contacted the store owner, but decided against it as it could make things worse for Veronica. One of the things the roommate mentioned was that Veronica is very worried about losing her job. (There was a very toxic person there that was recently let go that stripped her of a lot of her confidence.) So I am very glad I didn’t mention it to the owner. (Not that he is heartless, he just doesn’t want any more drama and I think it would make her feel worse.) The roommate said that she can be dramatic at times, but he takes this seriously.

      For the record, I am almost positive she doesn’t read this blog. (Sorry Alison)

      1. animaniactoo

        Ah, my impression was that you didn’t know the roommate (or about him) well enough to judge if he was going to be a help or further problem, glad that’s not the case and that he is going to talk to her. I hope it goes well.

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        He was very thankful and said that he would talk to her that evening when he brings the planner home. His plan is to tell her that he found it while going through the planner.

        That sounds like a great plan.

      3. Charlotte Collins

        Please let us know how it turns out. Either way, I’m worried about Veronica. She seems like a person going through a tough time personally and at work right now.

        Also, Ethel is horrible for going through her things.

      4. Venus Supreme

        Thank you for the update, OP #1. Please keep us posted on how Veronica is doing. I lost a friend to suicide, and it’s a terrible thing to go through, both for the person who died and for the surviving friends and family. Thank you for your efforts to help Veronica!

  27. Big10Professor

    AAM, Please update your advice on number 1. A number of mental health professionals have commented here with resources and steps for intervening.

    1. androidqueen

      This. I have been reading for a long time, and I have never commented, but this is too important. If you think someone is suicidal, it is decidedly NOT ENOUGH to just be “really kind.” Someone’s life may be on the line here. Any embarrassment she may feel about Ethel’s snooping is worth it if she gets the help she needs.

    2. Cat steals keyboard

      And I have to say I knew AAM had great commenters but they’ve outdone themselves today with great advice.

    3. LJL

      That would be a valuable resource to anyone who found this post while googling about suicidal co-worker, for instance. Yes, Alison, please do.

  28. Rachel Green

    For #3, shouldn’t the OP also include that some employees don’t celebrate Christmas and so may be uncomfortable giving a Christmas gift?
    I celebrate Christmas, but I would feel very bad if I learned that some of my employees who didn’t, felt pressured to give me a gift for a holiday they don’t even participate in. If the tradition continues, couldn’t it possibly cause legal problems if an employee were to complain that she felt pressured to participate in a religious tradition she didn’t believe in, or agree with or however that should be worded. Sorry – can’t think of good wording…still getting adjusted to my new meds. ;)

    1. SpaceySteph

      Speaking as a non-Christian…if you live in the US then probably everyone you know who is a member of a minority religious tradition feels pressured in some way to participate in Christmas traditions. The level of discomfort varies based on that person’s religious background and level of religiousness and how many times they’ve been told they’re going to hell recently.

      My work has a holiday potluck lunch, a “holiday” dessert competition, plus they do the mercy tree type thing (which there is no good answer for because *won’t someone think of the children*), plus putting up decorations, plus various other unofficial celebrations people throw. Gifts for the boss would be way worse IMO, but generally anything “holiday” themed (which is a faux-inclusive cover for things being Christmas themed) is at least a little bit of pressure.

  29. Kyrielle

    #1 – other people have already given all the advice I would, very well, but I just wanted to say thank you for caring and for writing in.

    #2 – Yep, it totally can look like you’re job-searching. A heads-up and framing it properly goes a long way. (I had to have a Discussion with a previous boss to reassure him I wasn’t planning to leave when I massively updated mine…I explained that several clients of our company had reached out to add me, which made me realize my profile was woefully out of date such that it reflected badly on me and possibly the company. Which was actually why I was updating it! Luckily for me, he believed me.)

  30. animaniactoo

    fwiw – among reasons for reaching out to a professional to guide you and having the conversation yourself, is that you also don’t have enough info about Veronica’s family or roommate to know if they would be a help in this situation, or if they are part of the problem for her. The same way that neither Betty nor Ethel are good candidates for having the conversation, based on their interactions with and treatment of her.

  31. Kristina

    I work in a public library and have gone through training on what to do if you think someone might be thinking about killing themselves.

    Directly ask Veronica, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” For more info visit the National Institute for Mental Health’s page on suicide prevention: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

    Asking directly does not give them the idea of committing suicide, but it does give the person a chance to reach out for help. If she says that she is, give her the number for the suicide prevention line 1-800-273-TALK (8255), where she can be connected to professional help.

  32. Dzhymm

    Op #5: “Employment objective: a secure position with maximum monetary rewards, minimum duties, and a seven-figure golden parachute” :)

  33. Jules

    #1 There are so really good feedback in the comments. I just wanted to add my 2 cents of, I hope you did explain that it was inappropriate to go through people’s things? Don’t people get written up for things like that?

  34. Yet Another Anon for This One

    #1 It’s not clear to me that the owner of the shop knows about the dynamic here. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that he doesn’t want to know. If, in fact, Ethel and Betty are bullying Veronica, he could step in to help with that dynamic. Veronica’s roommate may also be helpful.

    A suicide hotline can help OP come up with a script, but I also don’t think OP should feel the pressure to take this on by herself, the owner and the roommate may be in better positions to help. If possible, the three of them may want to discuss the best way to approach. In college, someone on my hall had expressed suicidal thoughts, and several of us (including our RA) went to the counseling center together to figure out how to approach the situation with a licensed therapist. I’m glad we did – our initial ideas likely would not have been effective.

    So I guess this is a long way of saying, don’t be afraid to ask for help even if you think a person “doesn’t want to be bothered.” I hope your boss deserves more credit than that. And if they don’t, that tells you something about where you’re working. Honestly, I would not want to work for someone who I felt like I couldn’t go to if a coworker was potentially suicidal. We had a coworker commit suicide a few years ago and it rocked that person’s manager to the core. This person had had their professional issues and conflicts with his supervisor (which make sense now, realizing that he was suffering from clinical depression), but no one wanted it to end that way, and we would have set all of that aside to help him get help if we had known what was going on.

    1. Yet Another Anon for This One

      I just saw your update in another thread about the store owner. I understand if you feel like he’s not a safe person to go to. But I worry about office dynamics where this is the case, especially if the victim of bullying is afraid to go to her boss because it will be seen as just more drama. Betty and Ethel should not be allowed to behave this way with no consequences.

  35. Horrified

    3. I like AAM’s suggestion. My two bits: it is totally inappropriate for Management to be accepting those gifts. They should have put a stop to it years ago.

    5. UGH – just went through something similar. Recruiter wanted me to emphasize a job I held 20 YEARS AGO – even in the interview with the employer, she kept directing me to talk about that job. I kind of did, but kept bringing my answers back to current, more relevant (in my mind) experience. Needless to say: I didn’t get the job but I’m not sorry. If the current position really needed the skill of something I did 20 years ago, then the fit wasn’t right in my mind.

  36. AlexZ

    #1 While I think this is definitely concerning and should be addressed somehow (and I have no idea the best way to do that); it’s actually possible that she’s not planning on committing suicide, but is still going through something deeply emotional. I say this because a lot of Veronica’s actions (and plans written in her planner) remind me of my Aunt when she found out that her cancer had metastasized and she had become terminal. Just something to keep in mind if/when it does get addressed with her.

  37. 2 Cents

    #2: There’s a radio button on the right-hand side of your personal LinkedIn page that says “Notify your network?” Turn that off, and then people you’re connected with (such as your boss) won’t see when you’re updating your profile in their own announcements / emails.

    #5: Related question: if the person’s only education is a high school diploma, should that still be listed on a resume. No college courses, no continuing ed to speak of.

  38. JennyJellyfish

    Normally I love Alison’s advice, but OP #1, please disregard! This isn’t “should I intervene for someone who is sad”; this could literally be a life or death case. (But also, please know it’s not your fault if something does happen to her, and recognize this is an awful situation for you to be in.) I see others have been putting up suicide hotline resources; reach out, get resources and advice for yourself, and (just my advice, after you have theirs on how best to handle, which may be different) reach out to Veronica. Leave your nasty coworkers out of that conversation, but tell her what they did, that’s why you’ve seen this, you’re so sorry they invaded her privacy like that, but now you are concerned for her. Sometimes one person caring is enough for someone to seek help.

    Or you’ll discover it’s an ailing family member or something, and you can offer sincere sympathy.

  39. janedoe

    Normally, I comment under a usual name, but I’ll go anon for this. Caring for someone can go a long way, and you don’t have to take the nuclear option of 911/hospital. Twice in my life, when I was suicidal and when I was discovered to be self-harming, the people around me just made sure I wasn’t alone for the worst of it, and helped me make arrangements to either get a doctor or see my usual one. I’m still here. No trauma or huge hospital bills. It was the better way.

  40. janedoe

    Regular poster, anon here.

    I’m pleased OP didn’t take the 911/hospital route. Sort of a nuclear option, especially with insurance issues and how expensive US healthcare is.

    When I had V’s problem, I told my then-fiancée, now wife. But, she was in law school and needed to go to her internship 1.5 hours away, the next day, or lose the credits and fail.

    So what did she do? Not the nuclear option, for sure. I couldn’t have afforded it and as I’m also in legal, such a hospitalization could prevent/delay my bar admission and licensure. Instead, she locked all the possible weapons in her car trunk, sent a hotline up to call me during the day, and told a pastor she was close to, about me. To his credit, he dropped everything and spent the day with me.

    Then, after that day, my fiancée pretended to be my wife (we already were domestic partners), so that she could make me needed doctor’s appointments ASAP.

    It was certainly less traumatic, less expensive, and didn’t wreck my career or school.

    1. Lee

      Aren’t mental hospital records sealed? I’ve never seen an involuntary committal on a background check (shouldn’t someone in legal know this?).
      I’m glad you got the help you needed, as being LGTB is difficult for in these times, on top of whatever mental issues you were dealing with.

  41. a mental health pro

    For #1 I think Alison is very wrong here. Yes Betty and Ethel are awful to Veronica and this should be acknowledged. It may be that she is working on something for a friend or family member, but it might be for herself. If she is suicidal it is important to be direct. let her know those awful co-workers invaded your privacy but now that I know this I need to talk to you about it, do you want to talk to me? Be prepared that she may not discuss this with you, have Life Line Suicidal Prevention wallet card handy to give to her, “I understand that this is uncomfortable, and you may not want to talk to me but I hope you reach out to someone- here is a number you can call http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/#” There is also Crisis Text Line and I am Alive online chat. Do not include the evil co-workers in any of this and let Veronica know if you plan to inform her roommate.

  42. Cautionary tail

    Op5: 5. Recruiter wants me to put an objective on my resume
    There were over 350 comments so I couldn’t read through all of them to see if this was already covered.

    I once had a company question me about an item on my resume that was channeled through a recruiter and I said “What, that’s not on my resume” to which they replied “Yes it is.” I then said to them that the recruiter must have put it in. At the company’s request I emailed my original resume to them and they said my direct resume made much more sense.

    So, it happens.

  43. Cat steals keyboard

    Posted in the wrong thread so reposting down here in case it gets missed. Now I have more time I wanted to post some suggestions for a script for talking about suicide. OP1, I saw your update about telling the roommate and that sounds like it was a really good idea – don’t forget to take care of yourself too as it can be very worrying and stressful dealing with concerns that someone is feeling suicidal and you may find it catches up with you in a few weeks. I’m going to post this anyway in case it helps anyone who finds this on Google or whatever.

    Do:
    – Ask directly about suicide. Just to reiterate, this will not persuade, suggest or encourage – research has shown extensively that it helps as if someone feels suicidal it gives them the opportunity to say so. Ask direct questions: are you thinking about suicide? Have you made plans to end your life?
    – Ask open questions e.g. how long have you been feeling like this?
    – Listen more than you talk. You don’t need to fix it or have a magic answer, and attempting to do so may shut them down.
    – Ask what has been happening for them lately. Listen to the answers. Don’t rush in to fix problems – there may be concrete help (e.g. for debts) but prioritise listening first.
    – Tell them you are sorry they are in so much pain and ask if they feel able to make a plan to keep themselves safe. This could include calling a crisis line, talking to a doctor or distracting themselves.
    – Thank them for telling you about their feelings. Tell them they took a big step and they deserve help and support.

    Don’t:
    – Don’t ask them to reassure you that they won’t act on their feelings or tell them how bad you would feel if they did. Be upset for them, not with them. Focus on how THEY feel. You can talk about those feelings, e.g. to a helpline, but not to them.
    – Don’t ask closed questions, like: you aren’t serious are you, you wouldn’t do that would you?
    – Don’t guilt trip eg tell them their family would miss them. They will most likely feel guilty for having the feelings and stop opening up.
    – Don’t tell them suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or that it passes the pain onto someone else. That implies that their feelings matter less than other people’s. And their problems most likely don’t feel temporary.
    – Don’t assume people who mention it won’t do it. That’s a myth. Suicidal feelings should always be taken seriously.
    – Don’t assume they are ‘just’ attention seeking. And really someone in this much pain NEEDS attention!
    – Don’t go behind their back if you can avoid it, try to agree what to do together with them.
    – Don’t assume people bereaved by suicide won’t try themselves, it’s actually one of the biggest risk factors for death by suicide.

  44. BTW

    #1 – Talk to someone ASAP and figure out how to broach the subject with her. Absolutely do not just leave it. My Uncle committed suicide. I was in college for a social work related diploma and my Mom had called me with some symptoms he was experiencing (I was taking an abnormal psych class on DSM classified disorders) I highly suspected that he was bipolar. It was so bad that his new girlfriend needed to leave him, understandably. I told my Mom that someone would *have* to be there when that happened because I feared that he would commit suicide. 2 weeks later I got that phone call. I carried a lot of guilt about that for a long time. I saw the signs and I failed to act. There was so much more I could have done. I’m sure my Aunt and Grandparents felt the same because they literally had planned to drive to him the day after it happened.
    The signs are there. Whether they invaded her privacy doesn’t matter. At least in my opinion. In the days prior to his death he took out my cousins “nice” clothes, hung them on the banister and told the girlfriend that he was “going to need these.” If that was me, considering his behaviour and everything else going on, I would have known immediately what that meant. I don’t blame her for not seeing it. She was stressed and scared between his constant bouts of depression and mania. But it was a pretty clear (to me) warning sign.
    At the end of the day, if something were to happen you don’t want to be that person wishing you could have done something but didn’t. In cases like this, personally I would throw all caution to the wind and have no problem owning up to snooping and thus breaking trust if it meant that I could possibly save a life.
    Good luck! This is a tough burden to bear and other commenters have posted a lot of helpful and useful information for you to get through this! *hugs*

    1. Bitterleaf

      I strongly disagree with this, especially the part about invading someone’s privacy and breaking someones trust to “save a life.” I had my life destroyed by someone just like you. I lost my family, my job, my house, and my trust in humanity because someone wanted to play hero.

  45. LivvyKatz

    There are a lot of comments, so I may have missed it, but for #1, could it be she’s suffered a loss (friend or family) and that’s inspired her to think about end-of-life issues? My grandmother died this spring, and a friend of mine just a few weeks ago, so these issues have been top of mind, but I’m not suicidal…

  46. Jack the Accessibility Guy

    Re 5: We’ve literally turned down resumes flat-out for having objectives on them. Your recruiter needs an update.

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