When ghosting is a sign of suicide or relapse

when ghosting is a sign of suicide

Ghosting is when someone cuts off all communication without explanation, either by text, email, phone, in person, or all of the above.

If it’s a hot, new relationship, you might get mad. “That jerk, he’s ghosting me. Why can’t he be a man and just tell me he’s not into me!” So it can be a weak way in which one person dumps on another.

Whatever the case, the ghoster usually has some kind of issue. Which means the issue is not you, but them. It’s probably not their first ghosting event. So take yourself out of the equation and by that I mean don’t take it personally.

Don’t get mad or give up yet either

In some cases, ghosting might be the clue to a more serious issue.

It’s common for those struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide to isolate (a.k.a ghost you). People who live with addiction also tend to ghost their loved ones when they relapse.

Sometimes we become offended when what we really need to do is reach out — be helpfully nosey and find out what’s going on.

Let’s say you have a sister

You invited her to Thanksgiving and she didn’t have the courtesy to call or respond at all. You sent multiple texts, emails and left a phone message. And then she not only never answered, she didn’t even show. You might think, “What did I do?” Then you get pissed. “My own sister ghosted me. After all the work I put into this family dinner.”

Think about what your sister might be going through. What is her current situation?

Maybe this sister is struggling with separation you don’t know about yet or if she just had a baby, maybe she feels shame for her postpartum depression. If you don’t know what’s going on lately it might be because it’s so big it’s weighed her down and plunged her in a dark hole.

He may be ghosting you because he is depressed

So let’s say you’ve been ghosted by someone with whom you’ve been friends with for a long time and there is no incident you can put your finger on. He drifted out of your life so gradually that best friend now feels like background noise.

It’s been a pattern for a year now, multiple no-shows and no replies to your messages. You might even think that’s how he is now and have accepted it. Along the way maybe you made up excuses about his lack of engagement. After all, you’ve been really busy.

If they’ve had years of being some other way and this behavior is new, that’s suspect. Even if it’s a sudden change, you should question it. What is your gut telling you?

But you left messages and they didn’t call back.

How are you going to find out what’s up if they are not answering you?

Change how you are communicating and try something like this.

“Hey Mark, I feel concerned because I have not heard from you and it’s really unlike you. Can we talk? I’m here to listen. You don’t have to sugar coat for me. I want to hear what is really going on. What time/place is good for you?”

Don’t give up easily. Keep reaching out, focusing on them, not making accusations or passing judgment. You are concerned and worried so come at it from that angle. And when or if they do answer, don’t offer advice. Really listen.

When ghosting is a sign of suicide or relapse

With some people, the more they don’t answer, the more they may be asking for help.

I’ve known someone who isolated and didn’t answer because she was starving herself to death in a suicide attempt due to a major depressive episode for which she is now gotten treatment. Thanks to a helpfully nosey aunt who was suspicious when she had not heard from her in a while.

Our friend Chris, who later died from accidental overdose, ghosted for almost a year when he relapsed. Shame pushed him underground as we made appeals even by video that we loved him no matter what.

I knew another who didn’t attend any family events he normally attended for almost a year and ended up killing himself. Both ghosted and it wasn’t because they were mad at anyone they loved, they were in a place of extreme despair.

Ghosting is typical of those who attempt suicide or die by suicide, those who feel shame for a substance use disorder relapse or even worse, an overdose.

They often feel worthless, like their presence doesn’t matter. And even if you do reach out to a friend and they aren’t suicidal, just busy, they’ll appreciate that you cared enough to reach out.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my youngest son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

4 thoughts on “When ghosting is a sign of suicide or relapse”

  1. I’m glad I came across this. I was recently talking to my ex for almost two months. We were working on re-building our relationship and felt like we were in the same page until 2 weeks ago. He has a history of drug addiction and has been clean for a year. We were supposed to meet up and see each other but days before he vanished. I’ve reached out a few times by a letter and text but no response. I’m assuming he may have relapsed or this is his way of just ending it. I don’t know the truth but if he did relapse, I hope he’s getting the help he needs and I’m not sure if I should try reaching out again.

    1. Marie- Do reach out and at least text words of encouragement. Things like, “I sense things are not going well. You may have relapsed. You may be thinking of suicide. Just know that no matter what, I do care about you and always will.” The message is that as much as you want him to get well, you care about him even if he does not. You do not need to go back into an unhealthy relationship but he is struggling right now and shame is blocking his recovery and he’s isolating. I’ve had this happen a few times. Every single time it’s due to either relapse or deep depression with suicidal thoughts. But just hearing from those he loves helps. Believe me. Even if he’s not responding, he is reading. Those messages matter. Just keep at it. And encourage his friends to do the same. You CAN and should have boundaries. Ours was, we weren’t giving any cash but we could buy a bus pass or take someone out to lunch.

      I texted a relative for 6 months. And at month 7, she finally responded. Things are going well with her now. But at the time, she had a mental health crisis and was suicidal and was embarrassed that I witnessed her manic episode. My reaching out did make a difference. But of course, this is up to you. You are a kind and thoughtful person and I appreciate your comment.

  2. Thanks for writing this. I have been dealing with a situation with an ex romantic partner, who has been suffering depression for a few years now and has been having suicidal thoughts. He is currently in a very harsh COVID lockdown and has been for months now. I have been trying to stay in contact and encourage him through it, but he has not replied to a message or email for 5 weeks now. I’m exceptionally worried about him, but I also find it very difficult not to take it personally.

    1. You are welcome. And you have done what you can given the situation. And you are right not to take it personally. We don’t know if he is alive or not but one thing is for sure, had you not tried he surely had no shot. Let me know if you hear from him. My guess is that he had just gone dark. Here is an article that helps with what to say because being with someone in their pain is a challenge. Here are two articles that might help.



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