Dear Dr. Bill,
I need some help and I know I can trust you guys. I have this friend at school who told me he’s cut himself several times. I don’t know why he’s doing it or how to help him stop. What should I do?
Thanks so much for contacting me, and for caring about your friend.
It seems like more and more teens these days are engaging in cutting, or what doctors call “self-injury.” It’s difficult to understand exactly why a person would do this to themselves, but it seems to be a response to overwhelming feelings of anxiety or depression.
It may be that your friend is experiencing a great deal of stress in his life, perhaps in his family. Or he may have experienced some kind of traumatic event in his past, and he’s using cutting as a way to cope with his feelings.
Your friend needs to get professional help right away. I suggest that you encourage him to see a school counselor to discuss the problem. Tell him that you will go with him to the counselor’s office to support him. If he refuses to go, let him know that because you care for him and don’t want to see him hurt himself, you will need to talk to the counselor yourself.
This may seem like you’re “ratting” on him, but it’s actually the most loving thing you can do. You need to let a responsible adult know what is going on so they can get him the help he needs.
By the way, Focus on the Family, we can send you a special booklet that will help you and your friend. It’s called “Hurting Beyond Words” and you can order it by calling Focus at1-800-A-FAMILY.
Thanks for writing Emily. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.