Cutting And Self-Harm: What Is Happening To Our Girls?

By Darlene Vanasco

Yesterday my Sober Friend from Brooklyn called me.

She lives in another town now, but her daughter and my daughter grew up together.

Sober Friend leaves me a message about HER daughter: Her daughter’s friend tried to kill herself. Friend is now on life support.


I sit down on the bed and cry. I think about everything MY daughter has been through recently. I think about “L”, another daughter friend, who successfully hung herself at 13 after being cyber-bullied too much for too long.

I cry and I ask the air, “What is happening to our girls?”

When I call Sober Friend back I ask her the question. I say, “Is it really as simple as blaming the media?”

Maybe it is. I don’t know.

Is it an American phenomenon?

I tell her, “I don’t know the suicide rate increase for women around the world. I just know when I was growing up we did a lot of things that would be considered harmful like drinking and drugging and passing out and having sex.

Although the sex part was more of a moral judgment on female behavior than anything intrinsically ‘harmful’.

But there was not this clear sign flashing over our heads. A sign that seems to say: I hate myself.

“I know.” Sober Friend agrees.

Sober Friend and I are silent for a moment. Our daughters have self-harmed in various ways, like so many of their girlfriends. I tell her, “Last night, a 17-year-old I met had just entered Intensive Outpatient Treatment for an eating disorder.”

“I feel like everywhere I turn, there is a teenage girl self loathing herself out of existence.” I say.

Sober Friend wants to help. “What can we do?” she asks.

We hang up.

I think about this.

About the pressure on teenage girls to be perfect.

About how that pressure comes at them now harder and faster than ever before.

I think about Hollywood.

About the Porn Industry in the digital age.

About expectations.

About size 00.

And oh, to have a thigh gap, but with D cups.

To attain the unattainable, sans Photoshop.

It is not a feminist argument.

It is not an exaggeration.

SAVE (Suicide Voices of Education) reports:

  • Between 1952 and 1995, suicide in young adults nearly tripled.
  • There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans.
  • An average of one person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes.

I think about Sober Friend’s question, “How can we help?”

I think: Ask the question.
Ask now.

I hope we are not too late.

If you are in a suicide crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.


DarleneDarlene is a teacher-mother-designer-writer who is recently transplanted  to Philadelphia from Brooklyn. Her writings on mothering and growing up  female emerged as a sanity-saving device and productive alternative to crying  on the kitchen floor. She can be found at or you can  read the antidotal stories of insanity, reality and progress on her blog: