Dear Straight Talk: My friend has huge family problems and is cutting his wrists. The cuts aren't deep, but his arm is infected because his parents lock the medicine cabinet and he isn't cleaning it properly. He showed me and some other girls the infection and told us not to tell our parents. But some girls did tell and now, behind his back, their parents are planning a first-aid package and intervention in his family problems. One parent said he might be suicidal. I'm worried he will be furious that we told and will more likely commit suicide when he realizes he can't trust anyone. Am I way off about this? - Please help, I'm so scared
Farren, 21, Redding: Showing his arms was a huge cry for help. Please tell your parents, please send him first-aid supplies, please inform his school counselor. Maybe he will be mad, but isn't that better than losing him to suicide and always wishing you had told someone? It's hard being responsible for such large issues at a young age, but when it comes to my friends, call me a whistle-blower, I don't care. I sleep at night.
Chris, 20, San Pedro: A girl in high school would cut herself with scissors during class, sprawling her sliced arms over desks for all to see. She didn't ask verbally, but this was her call for help. Fortunately, it was reported to the dean and she received medical attention. Another friend in college developed a drug problem. He lost weight, became droopy and pale, and missed classes. When confronted, he'd say, "I'm cool. I can stop anytime." We knew he'd be angry if we told the college, but something had to be done. He was expelled and sent to rehab, but really, for his own good. Whether it's cutting, excessive drug use, black-out drinking, or any issue regarding health and welfare, it must be confronted before someone is killed, disabled, or catches a sexually transmitted disease. In deciding which adult to tell, assess whether or not that adult will improve or worsen the situation.
Emily, 16, Sacramento: The one time when tattling is the right thing to do is when someone is in danger. Your friends acted correctly.
Mariah; 16; Collinsville, Okla: Lots of friends, in secret, tell my sister and me that they cut their wrists. You need to tell an adult who can help. They will hate you at first, but eventually will thank you.
Katie, 15, Auburn: Since the cuts weren't deep, telling parents was a dumb move because broken trust is hard to handle for someone depressed with unstable moods. A friend broke my trust and I've never forgiven her. You should have cared for his arm privately and got him to a counselor, but kept quiet with parental figures unless the cutting progressed. I finally told my parents and am just now getting help for cutting, but only because I went to ER and they required it. Don't let him go that far.
Graham, 15, Fair Oaks: You made a promise and shouldn't have told.
Elise, 17, Fair Oaks: One of my friends cut and I kept my mouth shut. Finally her dad noticed and sent her to an out-of-state program. Later, she told me she'd tried to kill herself a couple of times before being sent away. I feel guilty for not speaking up - and relieved that nothing happened.
Dear Scared: These last three comments reveal that many teens (like you) don't comprehend the risk of holding dangerous secrets. If someone is cutting themselves - or exhibiting other destructive behavior (drug or alcohol abuse, anorexia, bulimia, recklessness, withdrawal, etc.), tell a teacher or counselor. They know what to do. Silence can be deadly. Don't let someone's suicide or disability haunt you forever because you didn't speak up.
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