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Ask A Therapist: My Best Friend Is Suicidal

Q: My best friend is suicidal and I want to know if there is anything I can do to help her. She has already told her parents but they really aren’t doing anything to stop her. I have told a teacher at our school and the counselor but all they do is recommend seeing a psychiatrist. I am really worried about her she almost always has cuts all over her body arms, legs, and stomach. Her mother has been in and out of prison even before she was born. Her mother is also in right now and has been since she was 7. In the past few years she has had a lot happen, she lost her grandmother on her dad’s side two days before Christmas in 2008. Right after that she moved from a big house to a small one and in the process lost connection with her former best friend. Many of her animals outside died and she sat with one of her cats and had to watch it die after it got attacked by a dog. This past year she had her aunt on her dad’s side die and lost a lot of her friends. She also found out that her mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by four different psychiatrists and borderline personality disorder by one or two. We were in seventh grade this year and for most of the second semester she was labeled a whore because of how she dresses and who hangs out with. This past summer is also when the cutting started it started off pretty bad but not frequent. It then went to minor burns and small scratches and then blew up again to bad cuts and they were very frequent. At the current moment she only has scars but is thinking about cutting herself again. I would just like an idea of what I could say to her to get her not to cut anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read this (and respond if you do).

A: First of all, your friend is lucky to have such a mature and concerned friend like you. For 13 years old, you are wise to get some advice on how to handle this serious situation. You mentioned that your friend is suicidal. Has she told you that she has plans to end her life or are you suspecting that she is suicidal because of her cutting behavior? Often intentional self-harm, or parasuicidal behavior, is a cry for help without an intention to die. The two are related but don’t necessarily go together.

Does your friend acknowledge that she needs help to address her cutting? If so, she may want to ask her parents to take her to their family doctor. Sometimes parents are more willing to take their child to get “medical” help than “mental” help. Also, have you talked to your parents or guardian about this situation and asked for their help and advice? It may be a good idea to sit down with your friend and both sets of parents and express your love and concern and see how you and your parents can support your friend.  Another possible resource is Childhelp national hotline. You can tell them about your concerns with your friend and they will identify resources in your area.

If your friend’s parents are fully aware that their daughter is cutting and in need of psychological intervention and they refuse to get their daughter the treatment she needs, then this may be a case of medical neglect requiring or your parents to report the situation to child protective services. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Thank you again for writing in to Ask the Therapist.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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