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Friend Is Considering Suicide
Q: I'm 12 and I'm trying to help my friend, who I will call Nina. She has a serious problem, at least that's what I consider it to be. Her parents work late, and the family rarely gets to see each other. Nina is a middle child, and she hates her older sister because when they were younger, her sister would often play cruel tricks on her. She is very pessimistic, and is always sad and moody, hiding it behind a hyper front. Lately she has been seriously discussing suicide; her uncle committed suicide, and she's considering it, too. My friends and I have been trying to make her stop thinking about it, but it's only getting worse. What should we do?
A: Thank you and your friends for being such caring friends to Nina. First, anytime anyone keeps talking about suicide and is always moody and pessimistic, something needs to be done. Nina doesn't seem to be able to get out of this way of thinking or change her disappointing family situation. She needs adult help now; it's long overdue. As much as she can find fault with her parents for not being around for her, they deserve to know that their daughter is in so much pain. How could they or anyone but you kids know this if she hides behind this hyper front?
You and your friends can't assume the responsibility of saving her from suicide or making her life better. You certainly can continue to be her dear friends who offer her understanding and support.
Since you say she is getting worse, you need to share your concern with your school counselor (in confidence of course), a teen suicide crisis hot line/counseling center, a therapist you can trust or your parents. You can't let Nina's potential anger at you for telling someone about her pain cause you not to take some action.
Tell her you will help her find help. Offer to go to counseling with her. But above all, don't just keep doing nothing. This is a terrible bind for you all to be in but the big concern here is not whether you all have a rough time taking action, it's about Nina's life. Sure she could be being overly dramatic about this, using these suicide conversations to be noticed and cared for. But I've learned to ALWAYS take behavior like this seriously!
Write me back to tell me what you did and how it turned out. Let's hope Nina can get the help she needs and deserves.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.