A few nights ago, I went to bed afraid a friend was going to kill herself.
By some definitions, she isn’t even a friend. Why? I only know her through the internet. Many people – especially those who didn’t grow up around computers – don’t seem to believe you can meet, befriend, and truly get to know someone online. Maybe some people reading this are rolling their eyes and scoffing at my naiveté. But I believe it’s possible. After all, people meet on Match.com and end up married. Making friends is a heck of a lot simpler than that.
Over the year I knew the girl I’ll nickname Cali, we talked, argued, and spilled secrets. When she told me she was thinking about trying to kill herself again, all I could do was type some empty words onto the screen, press send, and hope she read them.
I may be one of those ‘perfect people with perfect lives’ (not true, but close enough compared to hers), but I understand this: people need to wake up. This girl has tried to kill herself at least five times. She has scars on her arms, legs, and stomach. She is constantly depressed, and her family doesn’t even notice.
Children everywhere are going through hell as we live our lives, happily oblivious. Sure, we can say they have it easy. We can say the starving children in Africa are doing so much worse. But do you honestly think that helps? Does telling yourself that someone else has it worse make your problems magically melt away? Kids are being beaten, raped, and emotionally abused while all we do is demean their problems.
I’m guilty myself. Two of my ‘real world’ friends recently revealed their suicidal thoughts. Since I was too wrapped up in my own problems, I hadn’t even noticed.
So let’s get a few things straight.
– Many cutters and suicidal teens are not looking for attention. They are dealing with immense pain – maybe not dealing well, but the best they can. If they talk about it, they’re looking for help.
– Don’t blame the self-harmer. Blame the people who forced them into a place so dark they couldn’t see a speck of hope – a place so dark they thought death was the only way out.
– Remember it’s not just a scar. Every scar has a meaning, a cause. Maybe it was a punch, or an insult… but every scar shows another kind of pain that person went through.
– It’s not the people you think it will be. The happy ones, the ones you think are normal and healthy… those can just as easily be a wreck inside putting on a pretty exterior.
What can you do?
Don’t think they’re being dramatic.
Don’t think they’re making it up. Even if they are, they’re trying to get help for something.
Don’t think they’re fine just because they say they are, and put on a happy face, and wear bracelets to cover up their scars.
People are dying, and we’re too busy watching Jersey Shore or Monday night football to notice or care. So try caring. Ask people how they really are. Say something nice. A single smile can make the difference between life and death, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
But to a struggling teen, it can be worth everything.