01/16/2013 09:10 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2013

The Lonely Epidemic

The teenage years are supposedly one of the times in your life where you have the highest highs and the lowest lows. Of course I can't really attest to this yet, as still being a teenager, I truthfully can't begin to imagine what being an adult will be like, so I have nothing to compare it to. All I know are my current feelings and my observations of what my friends go through. When writing the book, "All That is Red," I wanted to show teenagers around me that it's okay to feel bad sometimes and that they are not alone in those feelings.

It's normal not to feel perfect 100 percent of the time. We are supposed to have bad days and other days that feel down right horrible. That's normal.

Self-harm, which includes cutting, burning, and eating disorders, has become an alarming trend in the US as well as the rest of the world. I've come across dozens of statistics giving percentages and counts, but because self-harm is something usually done in utter isolation, it's hard to put a number on how many people are affected by it.

These people walk into empty rooms and lock the door behind them. They slump against the door and not knowing where else to turn, they hurt themselves to try to forget their pain. These people will do anything, if they could distract themselves for even one second. All they want is to forget. They wear these marks -- cuts, bruises, burns -- as tattoos, reminders of the one moment they didn't feel confused or scared. But when they unlock the door, they roll down their sleeves and cover their legs. They wipe their cheeks and smile. These people are our siblings and friends; the people we see every day.

Self-harm results directly from that loneliness that teenagers experience when they put on a mask every day to disguise what they really feel. They're isolated, but all they need is someone to reach out to them. We all need someone to tell us that they're here for us. They're no different. They need someone to tell them, "I'm here. I'm not going to say anything, or pass judgment. It doesn't even have to be now, but when you're ready, I'm here and I'm listening."

These words can make all the difference to someone who feels shut out. We need to start an open dialogue within our society. Just because we as a community refuse to discuss a certain subject doesn't mean that it isn't prevalent and doesn't affect the people around us. "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

A tree that falls in a forest with no one around to hear it fall has truly fallen. Someone who is in pain, but never talks about it, is still in pain.

Anna Caltabiano is the 16-year-old author of "All That Is Red," a dystopian young adult novel.