Dear Amy: I am 12 years old. I have three friends who cut. One of them, "Jane," was a cutter until her parents found out about it and got her a therapist.
Jane has shown much improvement and no longer cuts. She is much happier and doesn't miss cutting at all.
My other two friends have kept it a secret from everybody but me. They do not seem to find it a problem, and they don't believe what they are doing is wrong. Every time I try to talk about it with them, they shut down.
One of my friends says getting a therapist or other form of help can be traumatizing, and that it doesn't usually help. I don't know whether that is true because I do not cut and do not understand the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind it.
How should I approach this situation?
Dear Worried: "Cutting" is the practice of self-scratching or cutting the skin until it bleeds. There is evidence that people who cut do so when they are experiencing stress or anxiety. They say that feeling the pain of cutting gives them a sort of release. This is a dangerous practice - unless this cycle is interrupted, cutting can accelerate.
I share your concern about your friends. You sound like a very good and concerned friend, but this is way beyond your ability to manage it.
Tell your folks and also your school's counselor what is going on with your friends. They need professional, adult intervention and you are being a fantastic friend by helping them get it.
Dear Amy: Responding to "The New Minority," the "classy" smoker whose boyfriend is irritated by her occasional smoking, I was also a smoker, and there is nothing classy about smoking except for the perception of the smoker.
Although I'd only smoke outdoors, my wife and kids were upset by it. They asked me to quit for a few years. I fought it for a long while, but finally I quit smoking. Not only are they happier, but so am I. I feel better physically and mentally, and we all spend much more time together because I'm not sitting out on the deck puffing by myself.
Dear Ex: To be fair, this writer was being sardonic when she described her three-cigarette a week habit as "classy."