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Question
Posted by: Buzz | 2006/11/07

Cutting

About a year ago, my daughter mentioned that the brother of one of her friends, then 11, cut the word God on his thigh. The father found him doing it, and told both the son and daughter not to tell the mom. I'm friendly with the mom, we regularly go for coffee and have been at each other's house on a few occasions. The mom always speaks to (and of) the son very negatively, but has never mentioned the cutting. I know this boy recently came off Ritalin, he doesn't seem to feel good about himself, because he was teased about his height (he's short) and weight (chubby), and is battling academically. I find him a charming young man and like him tremendously.

My daughter just told me that her friend is in a hell of a state about her brother, now 12, because he cuts himself on a daily basis, has scars on his stomach, thighs and arms. She further told my daughter that their mother refuses to take this boy to a psychologist, she seems in denial because she made them promise not to tell anyone, she hands out bandages and plasters, even buys him long sleeved clothes to hide the scars.

I have enough on my own plate at the moment, and certainly don't want to make other people's business mine, but I feel compelled to do something to help this child, who is clearly desperate.

Should I approach the mom, risking our "friendship", which I'm prepared to lose if it means her boy will get help. Or maybe speak to the school psychologist? I even considered phoning Child Welfare. Or should I just leave it? I don't think I can!!!

I know some people cut themselves when they're battling emotionally, but is there a specific reason or could it be any emotional problem? And is it common for a young boy of 11/12 to cut himself?

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Our expert says:
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Sounds like a very dysfunctional family. The dad finds unmistakeable evidence that the poor boy is severely troubled, and instead of taking him for help, hides it and makes the kids hide this from the mother. She finds more evidence that he is a deeply troubled boy, and SHE in turn hides it, helps the boy to hide it, and swears them all to secrecy from the father. I understand your difficulty in deciding how to intervene usefully, while feeling compelled to try to help. This is exactly the sort of situation in which a suicide occurs, and everyone pretends to be shocked and surprised, and yet the signals had been clear for years, and no form of proper expert help had been sought.
There are a range of psychological problems in which people may cut themselves, but it is NEVER normal for a boy of 11 to be cutting himself in this way, and it should NEVER be ignored. A mother who helps hide the evidence while pretending there's nothing wrong, and who refuses to do what is obviously needed, and to take him for the help he desperately needs and desrves, must herself be a disturbed woman. You know better than we which ( or maybe several ) intervention might work --- approaching her tactfully might help her face facts ; I dont know if a school psychologist can intervene without a request from the parents, but presumably might if the teachers thought there was a problem ; and the welfare authorities ought to be interested. I agree with Chelle, that the parents response in this situation amounts to abuse and neglect. Ideally, in time, the whole family ought to become involved in Family Therapy, but first things first.
Let us know how things progress

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Our users say:
Posted by: Blompot | 2006/11/08

I will mail you Buzz

Reply to Blompot
Posted by: Buzz | 2006/11/08

Thanks Kat, I phoned but she wasn't available so will try again later.

Blompot, you're welcome to mail me at bizeebuzz at yahoo dot co dot uk, not that I'd have the guts to give her the name of the psychologist, but you never know. Thanks.

Reply to Buzz
Posted by: Blompot | 2006/11/08

Buzz
Do you have a mail adress where I can mail info to you. I know of a very good psychologist who's forte is cutting. She's written articles in some popular magazines and have been on some radio talk shows

Reply to Blompot
Posted by: kat | 2006/11/08

report it to the shcool phsycologist, im sure they will take it from there, and you can stay anon when doing so, tell them to check his tummy and that for themselves.

Reply to kat
Posted by: Buzz | 2006/11/08

Chelle, I don't see this boy regularly and chances are that he'd be hiding his scars so I won't be able to approach her about seeing marks on his body. That would have been the perfect opportunity.

H25, this lady and I are friendly but definitely not friends, i.e. we don't share personal problems, it's quite superficial. If I approach her upfront, I'd be letting my daughter and her daughter down, since she made her kids promise not to talk to anyone about it.

I've decided to phone the school psychologist today and if the mother finds out that I told the school, so be it. I can't live with myself knowing this boy's pain and not doing anything about it.

Thanks for your advice!

Reply to Buzz
Posted by: H25 | 2006/11/08

You say you are friends with this woman. Is she really worth having as a friend if this is how she handles her son, who clearly is in a desparate state at the moment and needs parental help, which is the duty of the parents to provide. Why dont you try and approach her and tell her you found out from your daughter about her son and shouldn't she take him to a psychologist for clearly needed help and see how she reacts? If she becomes hostile towards you maybe that's a sign that she doesn't deserve having a friend like you.


Reply to H25
Posted by: Chelle | 2006/11/07

Hi Buzz

It's so difficult not to do something here. This child is dependent on his parents for his emotional well being, and them not providing him with the necessary medical attention, in the form of access to psychologist and/or psychiatrists is actually abuse in my opinion.

It seems as though they're more concerned that they will be judged as bad parents and are now not doing the right thing, and are actually being bad parents in the process. But hey, lets be bad parents as long as no one finds out!! Damn it! I can't believe people won't look for help!

Sorry, I am venting my own frustration at the behaviour, than offering you a solution. :-)

Perhaps you could recommend this website as a start for her to open up about psychological issues. Maybe, if you have had a chance where you might have spotted a cut or a scar, you could just ask her outright about it. Not make accusations or anything, but just a few questions posed nicely might make her think.

Friendships are important, but I doubt whether in the long term, and in the bigger scheme of things, it's more important than getting some help for the child - and who knows, maybe this woman will be actually be releaved to have someone non-judgemental and a bit knowledgeable about these things to talk to and get advice from. Maybe it's worth the risk?

Like so many things though - it's so much easier said than done.

Reply to Chelle

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