DEAR AMY: I have a friend, “Morgan,” who I found out has been cutting herself. Morgan has struggled with depression since she was young. She seemed to hit her rock-bottom this past summer. She started cutting her arms with kitchen knives and scissors, including at my own birthday party. At first she said it had been an accident, but as I saw more and more scars develop on her arms, I knew something was wrong. I asked her privately about this, and she told me everything. Her parents had forced her into therapy during the summer and she couldn’t stand it. Morgan said therapy didn’t help at all and that going back was not an option. She said she knows her cutting takes a toll on her friends, and that after she cuts she regrets it. I told her I was always there for her if she needed to talk to someone, or if she needed to do something to take her mind off of cutting. I told her to just let me know and I would try to help her. I recently heard something disturbing. She said that late at night while her parents were asleep, she went down to the kitchen and cut herself with a kitchen knife for “no reason in particular.” Lately, she has stopped cutting herself, but she says that she feels the event is always looming over her head. How do I help Morgan? Have I done all I can for her? I want to be as supportive as possible for her, but have I done or said something wrong? Morgan asked me to not tell anyone about her behavior, and I feel like it is a giant brick on my shoulders. What should I do?
Worried in Washington
DEAR WORRIED: You are very smart and sensitive, and “Morgan” is lucky to have a friend like you. One of the best ways to help her is to give her a supportive outlet to talk honestly about her feelings and behavior.
People who cut often describe it as bringing relief after a buildup of stress and anxiety. Talking can help to decrease the stress.
Don’t judge Morgan, but do understand that this is a potentially serious issue, and she will likely need patient and supportive professional help. You really cannot promise to keep this a secret; it’s simply too important.
Take this brick off your shoulder and bring Morgan to see your school counselor. If she won’t go with you, tell her that you need to go on your own. You should also talk to your parents (they may decide to reach out to hers). Here are some very helpful resources for both of you: selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu; the crisis text helpline: text 741-741 (U.S. only); self-injury.net (U.S. and Canada).
DEAR AMY: I have grandchildren in their 20s. When they are invited for dinner at our home, they often sit down with cellphone in hand, attempting to hold a conversation or text while eating. When I remind them that we do not permit cellphone use at the dinner table, they do cease, but I wonder whether there is a better way to handle this situation. Any suggestions?
DEAR GRANDPA: Cellphone etiquette is a big deal, not only for flummoxed elders (who reached adulthood without this constant distraction), but also for young cellphone users who have had to develop their own techniques for trying to regulate this behavior. And, by the way, sometimes elders are the worst offenders.
Several millennial readers have made the following suggestion, as being something that works for them: When out at a restaurant, everyone places their cellphone in the middle of the table. The first person to reach for it picks up the check.
You can modify this at home by asking for the group to agree that the first person to reach for their phone does the dishes.
DEAR AMY: I couldn’t believe your so-called “advice” to “Overwhelmed,” the young mother whose husband didn’t lift a finger to help with the baby. Get with the century, Amy. Men are supposed to take on half of the housework and child care.
DEAR DISGUSTED: “Overwhelmed” was a stay-at-home parent. Her husband traveled for work and was often away for weeks at a time. My advice contained practical suggestions for ways she could promote bonding during the times when he was home. I think it is unrealistic for this family to split household duties evenly, given their situation.