Dear Dr. Wallace:

My best friend has been very depressed, and sometimes, she looks kind of spaced out. She has been absent from school three times this week, and I think it’s because her boyfriend broke up with her a couple of weeks ago. She had been looking forward to a special Valentine’s Day with him, and this never happened, as he broke up with her before then.

After school today, she told me she was thinking about committing suicide and that if she did, she wanted me to have all her clothes since we wear the same size. When I asked her why she would think of killing herself, she said she couldn’t live without her boyfriend.

This really worried me, and I told my mom as soon as she got home from work. My mom said that my friend was probably just depressed and she would snap out of it in a few days. She said that a lot of teen girls go through such depression after a breakup, especially when the guy breaks up with the girl.

I guess this may be true, but I’m still worried about her, and after seeing this strange look in her eyes, I need to know what I can do to help her. Just in case she really is serious, can you tell me what I should do to help her?

— Jill, New York

Dear Jill: Every suicide threat should be taken seriously! Statistics indicate that most teen suicides occur after the death of a loved one, their parents’ divorce or the breakup of a romance. Lillian Beard, an expert on adolescent health, says that suicide’s warning signs should never be ignored. One of these signs is giving away one’s prized possessions.

It’s important for you to talk to your friend about her situation and get her to respond. Do not worry for fear that bringing up the subject of suicide will provoke the action, because research shows otherwise. But you should never talk down to someone with such a serious emotional problem or dare her to go through with the suicide.

It is imperative that you discuss your friend’s condition and her threat of suicide with a school counselor, teacher or administrator as well. They will know exactly how to handle the situation. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing at all. It’s much better to be overly cautious than to treat the threat as just a “stage” in a teen’s life.

Dear Dr. Wallace: I’m a 15-year-old boy, and my mother was an alcoholic. Luckily, she got help through Alcoholics Anonymous and has been recovering for 16 months. I have been going to Alateen meetings, which help me very much, and I think they could help other teens who have a family member who is an alcoholic.

These meetings are for teen friends and relatives of alcoholics. It’s a wonderful place to go to talk about the problems that exist when you live with an alcoholic or know an alcoholic. When my mother was drinking, I blamed myself because she would always tell me she was drinking because I was a “bad kid.”

At the Alateen meetings, I learned the “do’s and don’ts when living with an alcoholic.” The most important don’t is “Don’t take it personally when the alcoholic blames you for his or her drinking, because they will use any excuse.”

I’m writing to you, Dr. Wallace, because I think your teen readers will benefit from going to Alateen meetings if their parents drink too much.

— Nameless,

Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Nameless: Thank you for writing. Your advice is excellent, and I’m very happy — for both you and your mom — to hear that you’ve been able to turn your lives around. Alateen is a wonderful self-help organization, and I promote Alateen whenever possible. It is a part of the Al-Anon Group. Their address can be found in the white pages of your local telephone directory.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.