Running away is serious business. Very serious. Because even if your friend thinks she is ready to live life on her own, and no matter how sophisticated she seems, she isn't ready - emotionally or financially. Many teens who decide to run away envision a life that's exciting, glamorous, and mature, only to discover that's not the kind of life they get. Life for runaway teens is hard, and they often end up homeless, panhandling, stealing, or selling drugs or sex in an effort to make money. Every year in the United States, more than 5,000 runaway teens die, either from assault, illness, or suicide.
Not too exciting or glamorous, any way you look at it.
If your friend has been talking seriously about running away, chances are very good that she's unhappy and running away from something. Teens tend to run away for a lot of reasons: abuse (whether it's physical, emotional, or sexual), family problems, or problems with school or their friends. Some run away because of alcohol or drug abuse - their own or a parent's.
Talk with your friend about what's bothering her and put your heads together to find better - and more constructive - solutions. At the same time, speak with an adult you trust as soon as possible, and tell him or her that your friend is talking seriously about running away. If you don't feel comfortable telling your parents, there are other adults in your life who may be able to help you out: another relative, a teacher, a coach, a school counselor, your family doctor, or a religious leader.
Once you've enlisted the help of an adult, he or she can help your friend understand that she has many options - and that running away isn't a good one. If after talking to people, your friend is still serious about taking to the road, make sure that she has the number of the National Runaway Switchboard, at (800) 621-4000. This number is for runaway teens in need and is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It provides crisis intervention, information, and local referrals. The service will even help runaway teens contact people from back home by providing a message service and setting up conference phone calls.
A final note: if your friend does run away, or if you haven't seen her in a few days and you think she's run away, it's time for you to take action. This doesn't necessarily mean a high-speed chase or a dramatic call to the police. It means going as soon as possible to a trusted adult and explaining that you believe your friend ran away. Don't be shy about sharing any information about where she might be going or what her plans may have included; and don't wait, in hopes that she might come back after a few days. Your friend's life could depend on it.
Updated and reviewed by: Kim Rutherford, MD
Date reviewed: September 2001
Originally reviewed by: Jennifer Shroff Pendley, PhD
Source: KidsHealth www.KidsHealth.com is a project of The Nemours Foundation which is dedicated to improving the health and spirit of children. Today, as part of its continuing mission, the Foundation supports the operation of a number of renowned children's health facilities throughout the nation, including the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Nemours Children's Clinics throughout Florida. Visit The Nemours Foundation to find out more about them and its health facilities for children http://www.nemours.org/no/