I’m going to be seventeen in a few months, and I have been dealing with mental issues for years now. I battled self-harm, suicidal tendencies, hatred and severe aggression towards myself and everyone else, etc. for years. My parents are unaware of that because I never wanted to burden them with personal issues, partially because I believe they’d most likely just tell me I was being too dramatic. As a minor, I had no way of getting professional help so I did the best I could at trying to help myself. Through lots of hard work and patience, I managed to get self-harm and suicidal thoughts under control (although I do slip up sometimes) and I became a much more positive person, but I still don’t feel like it’s “right”? I don’t feel normal; I believe happy people don’t feel this way. I feel like I may have just gotten good at faking the positive attitude because it feels so artificial at times—it takes very little for me to start feeling extremely miserable and hopeless. Am I overreacting or should I seek help?

A. I would agree with your statement that happy people don’t self-harm and think about suicide. Those are signs of someone who is suffering and who may be depressed.

Many teenagers feel as though their parents won’t help them or won’t be sympathetic to their situation, but they are often mistaken. You are making assumptions about your parents reaction, but as you have stated, you are viewing these issues through the lens of “misery and hopelessness.” This view is likely clouding your judgment.

If you were having physical health problems, you would probably not hesitate to tell your parents. For instance, if you began to experience an intense, sharp pain in your stomach, I highly doubt that you would keep it a secret. When the pain didn’t subside, you would quickly recognize that something might be wrong and ask for help.

Just like a sharp pain in your stomach may be a sign of an underlying medical problem, so too might your self-harm and suicidal tendencies. The desire to self-harm, suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness require professional and prompt treatment.

Depression is highly treatable, but you must first inform your parents and ask for their help. Give them the opportunity to help you. At this point, you haven’t tried. It’s your job to bring this matter to their attention and it’s their job to assist you in accessing the proper treatment. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle