Hey guys, so someone wrote to me and said that she’d like to get advice from the people who comment on this blog, because they are so thoughtful and smart. I usually don’t do this sort of thing, but I wanted to share her question with you all. If you have a moment and some insight, I know she’d love to get your response. Thank you!
After months of secretly cutting, my husband’s young teen niece attempted suicide over the weekend and we are all reeling with how to reach her (and her younger sister). It is coming out that it is a case of severe bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder, and she has been admitted to the hospital for seven days of intensive counseling and rest.
My husband and I feel prepared to offer her our support, as we both have backgrounds with counseling and mental health, but we are concerned with the state of her immediate family and extended family, who regard mental health issues as voo-doo, the result of being “weak-minded” (their words). The niece’s immediate family has a history of alcohol abuse, while the extended family has a history of emotional and physical abuse (none of which is acknowledged by the patriarch, so no one has sought counseling except my husband). However, none of these issues are rated severe enough for the state to interfere or take the children away.
We also don’t know how much we can or should help in regards to our physical distance from the family and burgeoning estrangement from each of its members. My husband and I have been working on establishing boundaries and creating distance for a few years now, kind of a “save yourself!” mentality, but of course we cannot apply this to our under-age nieces who are suffering!
What can we do? How much is too much or how much is too little? Our plan is to offer emotional support however we can, but to aim to be role models from afar for the nieces and to keep the lines of communication open, but I would love to hear if anyone has a similar story or what to expect from a professional therapist/social worker’s opinion.
And of course, let’s all take a moment for our hearts to break about the little string-bean of an athlete who hates herself and her body for not being attractive enough. Agh!