DEAR ABBY: My heart goes out to the suicidal 12-year-old from Pennsylvania. That letter was a cry for help, and I urge him or her to seek help immediately -- today, not tomorrow; now, not later. No 12-year-old deserves to feel the way that child does.
I can empathize because my 12-year-old son is struggling with major depression. Neither his father nor I realized it until one day he wrote a suicide note. Like the writer of that letter, my son thought if he told anyone he felt depressed he wouldn't be believed.
Believe me, when his suicide note was found, although he did not actually try to harm himself, it was taken very seriously. Treatment started that very day. We are not so far along on this journey that we know exactly what the future holds, but we do know our son is in a much happier place now with proper therapy and medication.
Adults in that child's life should treat even the suggestion of suicide with the seriousness it deserves and seek mental health treatment immediately. After seeing the difference therapy and medication have made in my son's life, I feel it is important to let that child know help is available. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. -- BEEN THERE AND DOING IT
DEAR BEEN THERE: I'm sure many more young people besides the one from Pennsylvania will appreciate your encouragement.
I advised the child who wrote to talk to a trusted teacher or counselor and to ask that person to intercede with his/her parents. I also suggested, if the temptation to self-injure became overwhelming, that he/she pick up the phone and ask the operator for a crisis hotline.
After the letter was published, I heard from many readers whose lives have been affected by depression or suicide. A woman who had been suicidal at 15 suggested the writer confide in a clergy person or the parents of a friend. A sixth-grade teacher, whose daughter had suffered from clinical depression for several years, told me her child had talked to a campus police officer about it because she "didn't want to worry" her mother. And a school social worker from Illinois asked me to print the number of the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).