DEAR ABBY: My son, "Sean," is only 13, but he will be attending his best friend's funeral. "Frank" died by his own hand. Apparently he had told many of his friends that he was going to kill himself, but no one took him seriously.
I am writing in the hope that my letter will alert children and adults that children and adolescents sometimes mean it when they threaten suicide. I pray parents will instruct their children to ALWAYS tell an adult if one of their friends talks about suicide. I have done that now, but unfortunately it is too late to help Frank. -- GRIEF-STRICKEN IN MARYLAND
DEAR GRIEF-STRICKEN: Please extend my deepest sympathy to the parents of your son's friend. And thank you for giving me the chance to point out that threats of suicide, and repeated comments about suicide, can be symptoms of serious illness and should be taken seriously. Many young people are reluctant to "rat" on their friends, but when it comes to talk of suicide, experts say that keeping a secret can result in losing a friend. Skilled professional help is needed for intervention.
Professional counseling should also be made available to the survivors of the suicide -- and that includes family members and friends -- to help them cope with their own feelings of guilt and depression.