DEAR HARRIETTE: A co-worker informed me that his 13-year-old daughter is having suicidal thoughts. He asked her if she was facing bullying at school, but she denies it. He does not know where these thoughts are coming from. He is thinking about therapy, but that is it. It is a difficult situation to hear. How can I take action to support his family? -- Suicidal Thoughts
DEAR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS: Sadly, teen suicide rates have risen alarmingly in recent years. One study suggests that teens die by suicide in greater numbers than by car accidents. Apparently, social media is part of the problem. The false sense of connection can actually prove to be quite lonely for teens and does not help them navigate these difficult years.
You can help your friend by being an active listener and suggesting reading materials that may help him to make smart choices to support his daughter. If you ever hear something that sounds particularly alarming, suggest that your friend take his daughter to the hospital at once. Potential suicide is an emergency. Suggest that your friend read up about suicide at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Another source of information is this helpful article from USA Today: bit.ly/2XjEqbS.
For anyone, teenager or otherwise, who is feeling vulnerable and having suicidal thoughts, there is a hotline you can call where a real person will talk to you and listen to you so that you don’t have to feel alone. That number is 1-800-273-8255.
DEAR HARRIETTE: When I am busy, I often rely on my boyfriend to watch our daughter. He always agrees to watch her if I am away handling business for a couple of days. However, I found out that he usually passes her off to his mother instead of watching her himself. I am not sure how to feel about this. Should I be grateful that I have someone to watch her for the weekend or complain to him about being responsible for her? -- Who's Watching My Baby?
DEAR WHO’S WATCHING MY BABY?: Check in with his mother to make sure that she is comfortable taking care of her grandchild during the times that you are away. If she is fine with it, you can feel some relief. If she needs help, find out what it is, and see if you can provide it somehow. That would be the time to sit down with your boyfriend -- not to scold him, but to let him know that this is a strain on his mother.
If grandma is enjoying spending time with her granddaughter, don’t jump in and complain. It is fairly common for male partners to get other family members to help with the children when mom is away. Is it fair? No. Is it real? Yes. Complaining about him and putting him down for not accepting his responsibilities will not suddenly make it better. More likely, the outcome will be that he will resent you. Hopefully he will grow to have a close relationship with his daughter, and he will choose to spend more time with her. Your positive input can help to foster that bond.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)