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Ask Dr. DombeckAsk Dr. Dombeck:
Psychotherapy and Mental Health Questions

How Can I Help My Friend?

Sun, Oct 31st 1999

I have a very good friend whose wife is living with manic depression. He explained to me that there are many times when she threatens to leave and talks about committing suicide. She even discusses how she will kill herself. My friend feels that, in these instances, he must do everything he can to keep his wife from leaving. If he doesn't, he is terrified that it will be the last time he sees her alive. My question, therefore, is how much responsibility is one supposed to take for the decisions made by another with a mental illness? I understand that being bipolar is a very serious condition, but I feel that my friend's wife has trapped her husband in a codependent position with her threats. Maybe I'm wrong, and he is doing the right thing. I just can't imagine living day to day with the burden of being accountable for another adult's every action. Please give me some advice as to how I can be of help to my friend. Thank you!

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