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Anonymous asks:
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My niece said she wants to hurt herself and admitted to cutting once a year ago

My 12 year old niece (through marriage) has been having problems with her classmates and her situation at home.  Her parents have a very troubled relationship and she tends to blame herself.  I've become extremely close to my niece since beginning my relationship with her uncle/my husband over the last 6 years and she always opens up to me and we try to talk through her problems.  However, her depression has intensified over the last couple weeks and I really don't know what to do.  Beginning last week, she's had to see her school counselor (referred by teacher).  
 
Yesterday she just told me that she wants to hurt herself and she tried cutting once a year ago. She said she wants to do it again.  At this point, I'm not sure what to do.  Her mom loves her and is aware of her daughter's depression, but she (my sister-in-law) was a cutter and was always open about it--even with her daughter--and has given the impression that cutting is not a big deal.  My sister-in-law also believes the couseling her daughter is receiving at school is adequate but I don't think she knows about the past cutting. I guess I'm not sure what to do because I don't think my SIL will take it seriously and I'll break my niece's trust with the only relative she confides in while she is already receiving counseling.
In Topics: Teen issues, Cutting, Children and stress
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Jan 20, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Anonymous,

First, what is your understanding of your niece's intentions when she says that she wants to "hurt" herself? Is she having suicidal thoughts? If so, does she have a plan or has she ever thought of different means by which she would like to die? If she IS having suicidal thoughts, it is very important that she gets appropriate treatment right away. If she has a plan to commit suicide, you must call 911 immediately. She would be taken into protective custody and hospitalized for a short period of time in order to keep her safe and get her stabilized.

If she has thought of suicide, but has no plans, I suggest that you talk with her and let her know that her safety and well-being is your top priority. Tell her that you think that her mother needs to know how much she is suffering, so you would like to be there when SHE tells her mother about her feelings. If she refuses to tell her mother, let her know that her mother needs to know, so you will tell her either way. Thus, I think that her mother should be brought into the loop. Once she is aware of the extent of her daughter's suffering, suggest to her that she schedule an appointment with a therapist in the community who specializes in depressed teens. Her school counselor can make a recommendation.

If, for some reason, her mother continues to question the severity of her daughter's troubles, share some resources with her (I have provided links to a couple of articles below) and invite her to make one appointment with a therapist to explore the consequences of cutting behavior. At the minimum, your niece is overwhelmed and does not have the adequate coping strategies. Individuals who cut themselves are typically swamped with intense feelings and do not have a good way to manage them (e.g., talking with a friend, going for a walk or jog, hitting a pillow). Cutting helps to focus their feelings on a tangible injury, provides relief and can quickly become "addicting" as a way to cope with tough feelings. She needs help learning alternatives to dealing with the stresses of life over the long term..

I'm so glad to hear that your niece is comfortable opening up to you. She is lucky to have such a caring and supportive family member in her life. Trust your instinct and know that the situation is serious and your niece needs help making the right decisions right now.

Sincerely,

Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Child Psychologist
JustAsk Expert
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Additional Answers (6)

ACOKER5780
ACOKER5780 writes:
I have a 12 year old neice that is going thru the same thing.  But she has cut herself a few times in the past.  Broke a few bones from beating with a hammer or her own fist.  She wrote a letter saying how she was going to kill herself.  She is really out of control.  Today she beat her arm with a hammer and screw driver.  She has been in the hospital 3 or 4 times in the past year.  It is not helping, she plays mind games, and they think she is fine and send her home.  Her parents are divorced, dad was going to have her put away for a couple of years, but her mom signed her out of the hospital the last time.  She didnt want her baby to be taken away.  Now, she has been living with her mom, and beating her mom, to the point of black eyes, and her mom calling the cops on her.  But NOTHING is being done!!  We can not find anyone that will help now.  

Get your neice the help that she needs now, before she gets as bad as mine!!  I wouldn't worry about breaking your neices trust.  Every time my phone rings, I think that it is a call to tell me that my neice finally went to far and killed herself.
> 60 days ago

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ACOKER5780
ACOKER5780 writes:
I have a 12 year old neice that is going thru the same thing.  But she has cut herself a few times in the past.  Broke a few bones from beating with a hammer or her own fist.  She wrote a letter saying how she was going to kill herself.  She is really out of control.  Today she beat her arm with a hammer and screw driver.  She has been in the hospital 3 or 4 times in the past year.  It is not helping, she plays mind games, and they think she is fine and send her home.  Her parents are divorced, dad was going to have her put away for a couple of years, but her mom signed her out of the hospital the last time.  She didnt want her baby to be taken away.  Now, she has been living with her mom, and beating her mom, to the point of black eyes, and her mom calling the cops on her.  But NOTHING is being done!!  We can not find anyone that will help now.  

Get your neice the help that she needs now, before she gets as bad as mine!!  I wouldn't worry about breaking your neices trust.  Every time my phone rings, I think that it is a call to tell me that my neice finally went to far and killed herself.
> 60 days ago

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GodreauGirl
GodreauGirl writes:
Call the suicide prevention hotline. I don't know their number but look it up in the Internet on in the yellow book, I think you can talk to them anonimously. They can help you better but do something before your niece does something bad. Blessings!
> 60 days ago

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SociallyAwkward
SociallyAwk... writes:
Personally I was a cutter at her age. At the time it seemed like the only way, my thought was "What could physical damage do that the mental hasn't". My school life was like a black hole. I never talked to anyone and one day I went so far so to overdose on pills. After that it was endless doctor visits and being watched constantly. If I could go back I wish I would I could take it back. The best thing for you to do is talk to her seriously. Tell her that she has to talk to her mom sometime and you could be there with her to help. Also, if she's willing, try to find some extracurricular activities to meet new peers. Say girlscouts for instance. The biggest thing you can and it seems you do is be there for her. Take her out to coffee or movie and watch how she comes through.
> 60 days ago

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charisma21517
charisma21517 writes:
o no u should talk to somebody holy!!!!!
> 60 days ago

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sophie.a
sophie.a writes:
i think you should ask her if she wants to go to a counsellor with you, and she can get help without getting her mum involved
> 60 days ago

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