Suicide Prevention/early depression

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Question
Okay, so I'm kind of in shock. Me(16) my cousin Sarah (12) has been acting VERY strange for the past year or so, she has been very distant lately and my cousin's Allison(19) and Erin(15) have been telling me some really concerning things that she's been doing.
FIrst, let me tell you that I know she IS really young. I've looked at every possibility at why she is changing. It may be just a faze; she may be just doing this because all of the kids at school think she's cool because of this; she may be doing it for attention; she may just like these things and nothing else and last, she may be depressed.
Now let me tell you about Sarah. I've been close with her and her family all of my life. They are like sisters to me and if I had it my way they would be. Sarah just started middle school, but before 5th grade she was her same Sarah self. She LOVED the outdoors, loved animals, and loved to write and learn new things. She would write stories, like actual books on just random things. It was amazing to watch her grow up. She grew up very fast and was always very mature for her age. I don't know why but now everything just seems different with her.
About a year and a half ago Sarah was introduced to this band called "Black Veil Brides". I do not judge her on her music choice, I don't judge her on anything, it's just that this is the first thing that came out to me and said "something's wrong". The Sarah I knew would never listen to that. She liked Katy Perry and Britney Spears. I looked it up and decided to see what they were like for myself and their lyrics weren't bad, but they also weren't good. The song titled "Knives and Pens" is about how you SHOULD NOT cut yourself, instead you should write down your thoughts. Now, the thing about the lyrics that came to me was, why instead? Why is cutting yourself even a thought to her? This is not the only strange thing, Allison and Erin, her older sisters, told me that Sarah had been talking to a guy (who SAID he was 16) on this website KIK. I thought she knew that that was wrong? I thought she knew that you can't do things like that, people are crazy! After I calmed down, I thought about why people do that, not just Sarah, but I've heard many answers; stupidity/rebellion, they honestly thought it was a real person, or because they crave someones affections. Sarah is NOT stupid, and she was taught not to talk to strangers, so my question was, does she not feel loved? Does she not get enough attention? In a house with two other older, might I add loud, siblings maybe she doesn't get enough attention and she feels neglected. I don't know. Another thing is Erin found one of her journals that she kept from fifth grade. Erin did not give me very elaborate details on the journal, all she said was "If you read this, you would of thought that she wanted to kill herself..". That's what got to me the most. Was this her way of using pens instead of knives like in the song "Knives and Pens"? Was my little Sarah depressed?

I went through a very bad time when I was her age too, I wrote letters, I cut myself, but I started talking to my parents and made new friends and eventually saw the light in my lonely dark tunnel. I don't know how to make Sarah see that. She's just now starting 6th grade, I was in the middle of 7th grade so I only had a year and a half left. Sarah has 3. I don't know how to convince Sarah that she really will be okay and nothings lasts forever. I don't know how to let Sarah see the light that I saw. Any advice?

Answer

I've no doubt you will be an inspiration for your friend, Rachel. However bear in mind that Sarah may also need professional help, and counseling. Her family GP is best equipped to identify the signs of depression, and may want to consider medications in Sarah's treatment care plan. Your role is an important one because of the things you've disclosed to me, and the connection you have with Sarah. It is her trust in you that will enable you to encourage that initial doctor's visit, and begin Sarah's road to recovery.

How fortunate your friend Sarah is to have you on her side! It's clear that you care very much what happens to her and would like to help her through this difficult time. I think perhaps there is noone better equipped to help her and encourage her to get through this than somebody like you - a friend whom she trusts, and who can understand the issues she is facing.
Bear in mind however, that you may not be able to convince Sarah of anything.. she will decide for herself how she sees the world and her place in it. However, what you can do is continue to be there for her. Encourage her to open up to you, and to talk. By listening you are letting her know that you care about her and what she has to say. You are communicating to her that her opinions matter, that she matters. Sarah will likely find strength in knowing that you and others do care about her, and understand what she is going through. By sharing your experience and your own story, you 'll give her hope for her own future - with the knowledge and security that somebody she trusts has been through something similar and has not only lived to tell the tale, but has come out the otherside smiling.. a stronger person for having done so!  

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Rachel Hurst

Expertise

All questions sent to me will receive a warm and caring response. I'll do my utmost to address a persons particular problem, but in most cases will also attempt to supply that individual with additional resources which might be of further benefit. There are many helpful online support groups where readers can benefit from the ongoing support of others who have suffered similar problems. These groups offer invaluable peer support from others who have 'been there'. As well as responding to your initial letter, I'll attempt to provide ongoing encouragement when this is needed. Advice will be focused on addressing the writers individual needs, and providing related information and resources. I would try to ensure that any person seeking advice has accurate and up-to-date information on the signs and symptoms of depression, and importantly, is made aware that help is available through many different avenues. Where I feel that it's relative and helpful I would mention my own life experiences with depression and coping with a loved one's suicide (however, only in context.) I would be on the lookout for warning signs that the person is in crisis and may require immediate intervention. As such I would arm myself with as much information as possible in order to refer them to the help they need. In cases where I believed the persons life to be in imminent danger I would contact authorities in their area, or if unknown, I would call the emergency services in my area in order for the person to be located through tracking.

Experience

I am by no means a trained professional. My knowledge comes mainly through life experience, having endured the devastating loss of my best friend through suicide, as well as my own subsequent battle with depression following his death. I found that my own experience of losing a loved one to suicide put me in a strong position to help others, due to my ability to empathize (as opposed to sympathizing). I became knowledgeable on the topic of grief, and the extensive repertoire of depressive illnesses, signs, symptoms, and treatment options available to people in crisis.

Organizations
S.O.L.O.S. Survivors of Loved Ones Suicide - Active member since 2003.

Publications
'Marie Claire' Australian, 'Cleo' (Australian), Online discussion forums (in which my submissions have stimulated discussion and generated much feedback).

Education/Credentials
I am a professional writer. I was trained in journalism. Please see my profile in Linked In. http://au.linkedin.com/pub/rachel-hurst/41/178/165 I have studied related subjects during training as a registered nurse. Both of my parents are mental health professionals. However most of reading widely and life experience has been my greatest teacher.

Past/Present Clients
I have helped a number of individuals who have sought my take on a particular problem, or whom I have felt concern for, for various reasons.

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