Thinking About Running Away?

Depression, Drama, Family, Homelessness, Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Crime, Trouble

In the United States, 1 in 7 kids between ages 10-18 will run away at some point. On any given day, between 1 and 3 million runaway and homeless kids are alone on the streets.

Kids run away for lots of reasons. Most of the time, it’s because of family problems of some kind, like big arguments or abuse. Sometimes they did something wrong and they’re too afraid to tell their parents, so they just leave. Sometimes it’s something else like a new baby in the family, a death in the family, their parents splitting up or a new stepparent comes along, or they start drinking or doing drugs, or maybe their parents are drinking and doing drugs.

If you’re thinking about running away, you’re probably wanting to do it to avoid your problems. But you need to know that running away and being on the streets will create a whole new set of problems for you. You might run out of money, you might not have any food and water, you won’t have anywhere safe and warm to sleep, and you might even get mixed up in the wrong crowd and get into some scary, illegal stuff. So, there are some other things you can do.

Instead of running away…

  • Express your feelings with friends and trusted adults, instead of keeping everything to yourself. Let them know what’s going on, and talk about it so you can come up with a better solution than running away
  • When you’re really upset, try calming yourself down by doing something you enjoy, like listening to music, writing poetry, writing in a journal, or exercising.
  • When you’re having a problem, make a list of ways you can fix it and make everything better.
  • Get help from an adult, like a teacher or counselor. Ask them to help you figure what to do, or somewhere else you can stay.
  • Talk to your parents about it and see if you can work it out as a family.

If you have a friend who wants to run away…

  • Warn them about how tough it will be to survive on the streets. Let them know that they won’t have enough money, food, or water, and that they could have to deal with some really scary stuff out there all by themselves.
  • Remind them that there are other ways they can deal with their problem, and that an adult will know how to help.
  • If your friend doesn’t want to tell an adult, tell an adult anyway. When your friend is out on the streets, you don’t want to keep that a secret. You aren’t being a bad friend by telling when they asked you not to… You’re probably saving their life.

Another thing you can do is call The National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929). Their hotline is open 24 hours a day, and your call is free from anywhere. You can also go on http://www.1800runaway.org and live chat. They’ll be able to help you find somewhere to stay.

If you live in Yamhill County, Youth Outreach has a Safe Shelter program for anyone 11-17. If you need help, you can come into our drop-in center Monday-Friday any time until 9 p.m., or call us at 503-538-8023. For weekends and after hours, you can call 1-866-538-8023 (free call from anywhere) and we’ll come pick you up wherever you are. We’ll find somewhere for you to stay.

Cutting & Self-harm: How to Help

Depression, Health

Why would anybody want to cut or hurt themselves? How could that possibly make somebody feel better? While a lot of us don’t understand it, there are many people who feel relief when they cut or harm themselves in some other way.

To some people, hurting themselves makes them feel better. It makes them feel like they’re in control for once, and makes them feel alive instead of numb. It can help express feelings they can’t explain, like extreme sadness, self-loathing, emptiness, guilt and rage. It releases the built up tension they feel inside that they don’t know how to let out in any other way. It distracts them from their overwhelming emotions and anything going on in their life that they can’t deal with. It’s a temporary fix that, after a while, only makes them feel even worse… so it becomes addicting and they continue doing it.

If someone you know is cutting or harming themselves, here are some warning signs. They might:

  • have unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on their wrists, arms, thighs, and chest
  • have blood stains on clothing, towels, bedding, or lots of blood-soaked tissues
  • have sharp objects or cutting instruments always on hand, like razors, knives, needles, glass shards, bottle caps or scissors
  • have frequent “accidents” – they might claim to be clumsy and have many mishaps
  • always be covered up, like wearing long sleeves and pants even in hot weather
  • want to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom

If a friend tells you they’ve been cutting or if you confront them about it, here are a few things you can do to help them:

  1. Be sure to focus on their feelings rather than the fact that they’re cutting. Instead of asking how often they cut, what they’re using to cut, and where they’re cutting, ask them how they feel. What kinds of feelings and thoughts are they having?  How do they feel before and after they hurt themselves? How are they feeling about their life overall?
  2. After asking about how they feel, figure out why they cut. What are their self-harm triggers? Is there a pattern, does something similar happen every time they cut that causes them to get the urge to hurt themselves? What’s different in their life now than before they started cutting, and what happened the first time that made them decide to experiment with self harm?
  3. Help them find new coping techniques. People cut and harm themselves for different reasons, so after you figure out their reason, help them find something that works for them and will really help them feel better. Here are some ideas for people with different kinds of feelings:
  • If the cut because of intense emotions, they can…

-paint or draw

-journal about their feelings

-write a poem that expresses their feelings

-write down all their negative feelings then rip the paper up

-listen to music that describes how they feel

  • If they cut to calm and soothe themselves, they can…

-take a bath or shower

-cuddle with a pet

-listen to calm music

-wrap themselves in a warm blanket and lie down

  • If they cut because they feel disconnected and numb, they can…

-call a friend

-go to a self-help website, message board, or chatroom

-take a cold shower

-chew on something with a strong taste, like peppers, peppermint, or a grape fruit peel

  • If they cut to release tension and anger, they can…

-work out, like running, dancing, or hit a punching bag

-punch a mattress or scream into a pillow

-squeeze a stress ball or some Play-Doh

-rip something up, like a newspaper

-make lots of noise, like playing an instrument or banging on some pots and pans

When people cut and harm themselves, they keep it a secret from everyone they know, sometimes for several months. That is very hard on them, on top of whatever they’re dealing with that makes them cut. So when you reach out to them, make sure they know you aren’t judgmental about it and you just care about their feelings. Let them know that you’re their to help, and that there’s hope for them to get through this hard time.