Online Friend Fixated on Columbine Massacre Killer

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Reader’s Question

I have an online friend who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a while ago, and I’m becoming increasingly concerned about her. She is quite fascinated by the Columbine shooting, watching and reading everything she can about it. She expressed to me that she has a crush on one of the shooters and that she is now feeling his presence around her. I asked her if she felt this “presence” would harm her and she said yes; she was so afraid of this that she could not sleep. She also told me that while writing in her diary about killing people she felt like he was making her do it, or channeling through her. She is seeing a psychiatrist whom she does not particularly like, and although she has told him about her obsession and has tried to reduce the amount of research she does on it, she will not tell him about this shooter’s “presence”.

She has also been abusing the sleeping drug Ambien which her psychiatrist prescribed to her and has a past of bath salts abuse. She has also expressed to me that she is going to kill herself at age 30 (she’s currently 19). As I live in Australia and she’s in America I do not know how to help her any further than being there for her and trying to give the best advice (which she sometimes doesn’t take). Is this just her bipolar acting up or something more?

Psychologist’s Reply

It sounds like you are doing all that you can do. One of the hardest things about trying to help someone is that you cannot make them do things they don’t want to do. You can make wonderful suggestions but ultimately it is up to the other person to implement them. There are times when advice, even good advice, is counterproductive because all the person wants is a listener. It sounds like this may be one of those times. Consequently, all you can do right now is just be there for your friend and hope that she works toward good health. Believe me, I know how tough just listening and waiting can be. It can leave anyone feeling quite frustrated and helpless but, unfortunately, if you want her to remain in your life, you have no other choice.

As for whether her behavior can be attributed to her bipolar disorder, it is really difficult to say. There could be any number of explanations for her behavior. She could be in the midst of a manic episode or simply dramatizing herself in order to get attention from you. Without knowing the specifics of her situation, which you really cannot do from so far away, there is no way to be certain. Thus, I recommend that you continue to encourage her to get help from the resources she has (like her psychiatrist and any close-by family or friends) and then engage her on topics other than Columbine, suicide or drug abuse. Hopefully she is as interested in what is going on in your life as you are in hers.

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