DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m 15 and have a stepsister who I’m somewhat close to. We go to different schools but share my room every other weekend. She’s super depressed ever since her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. She carries some extra weight and says the girl he dumped her for is really tiny and goes out of her way to be mean to her, saying rude things about her body and making school a hell. She hardly came out of our room or ate anything all weekend when she was here.
Also, I saw her open diary and it said: “The only way is to kill myself and I know how to do it.” She saw me read it and told me she didn’t mean it, she was just “venting” and not to tell anyone because it would just create drama when all she wants to do is get over this. She really did seem to be just venting. But what if she’s not? I don’t know what to do!
— Scared in Ohio
Katie, 20, Auburn: Do not stay silent. She is not okay or she wouldn’t have written that. Even if she is “just” venting, negative thoughts can dig in deeper and deeper. It’s such a slippery slope! By age 15, I’d already survived suicide attempts. If someone had found my journals and gotten me help, I can’t tell you how much easier my life would have been — then and today. Tell your parents, a school counselor, or someone in an authority position! I beg you, do not stay silent!
Ochatre, 23, Kampala, Uganda: The eventual suicide always starts with suicidal thoughts. It’s best to put “two and two” together now, rather than after it’s too late. I wish someone had read the signs from my good friend, the late Nyanzi. Nyanzi was intelligent, handsome, from a rich family. He was among the top in his high school class and was at university on scholarship. Yet in him was a pain that always put him down, a pain he solved with alcohol and drugs and never shared with anyone.
One fateful day, Nyanzi locked himself in his bedroom and hanged himself. He left no note. His suicide surprised each of us who always talked to him and shared good times. I took it upon myself to figure out why someone with such a promising future would end his life.
With no answers from friends, I checked his Facebook page and was shocked. He had posted a photo of a tombstone indicating the date of his death (the actual day he committed suicide). There was also a picture of him and a girl where he commented, “I will go with her to my grave.” Many of his friends had commented and made fun of these pictures.
Suicide is often planned in advance and there are almost always signals that we take for granted. Tell a responsible adult right away!
Ryann, 16, Tustin: Your stepsister wants help. Leaving her diary open so you would see those words is her way of reaching out. You need to tell an adult who will get her help! You must overlook the minor consequence of causing problems in your relationship. Don’t delay. The next time she writes something about suicide, it may be too late.
DEAR SCARED: I’m glad you wrote. You’re smart to be scared. The No. 1 cause of suicide is untreated depression, which your stepsister clearly has. In fact, she has FIVE suicide warning signs that I can see from here (depression, social withdrawal, changes in eating patterns, writing about suicide, and having a suicide plan). You also indicate TWO risk-factors for suicide (her difficult breakup and being bullied). Stay emotionally connected with her, but do not attempt to be her “therapist.” She needs a real one — and fast. Tell your parents IMMEDIATELY! Don’t hesitate to call a crisis counselor at 1-800-SUICIDE.