Dear Annie: I am a middle school student, and one of my friends is depressed. She and her family are atheists, and they have been repeatedly harassed about it to the point that her worst fear is dying and going to hell.
I'm really scared for my friend. When we found out she was thinking about suicide the first time, we got her to go to the school counselor, who, instead of telling her that she was depressed and needed psychological help, told her she had made mistakes and needed to be more careful. This only decreased her already low self-esteem. Now she thinks she's a coward. My friend is also painfully lonely and convinced that everyone hates her.
I do not trust the school to help, and neither does she. Everyone says she's just being dramatic. I have no idea what I am supposed to do. — Powerless
Dear Powerless: First understand that harassing someone for her religious beliefs (or lack thereof) is bullying and should be reported to the school authorities. It is very difficult when a student doesn't conform to the dominant attitudes of the school, and it takes a great deal of courage to stand your ground. She is fortunate to have you on her side. Is there a sympathetic teacher or coach she can talk to? If the bullying continues, her parents should speak to the school board and even the local police. We assume her parents are aware of the bullying. If not, please tell them immediately. Your friend's well-being is at stake.
Dear Annie: Our extended family is relatively small, and we all live nearby. We gather for annual holiday dinners.
Four of the seven women have a very close relationship, with frequent telephone calls, personal contacts and shared vacations. When the family gathers for the holiday dinners, these four women separate themselves from the remaining family and have a raucous time together with their private jokes, etc. They go to another room and make no attempt to include others in their "clique," so the other three women and the remaining family are left out of this merriment. The men don't seem to mind. However, we, the three excluded women, feel this behavior is rude. It makes us feel isolated and offended. After one such holiday, a comment was made to a clique member that they should attempt to socialize outside their group, but their behavior hasn't changed. One of the offended females is questioning why she and her spouse should even attend these gatherings.
Do you have any suggestions as to how to handle this situation? — On the Outside Looking In
Dear Outside: Are the parents around? Mom or Dad should make it clear that this rude, exclusive behavior is inappropriate for family gatherings and will not be tolerated. If there is no authority figure whom these women will listen to, your best option is to ignore them. It would be a shame for these family gatherings to disintegrate because a few people are terminal adolescents. Don't treat them as if they are the cool kids in high school. Talk to the other family members. Have the interesting and amusing conversations they will be jealous to have missed.
Dear Annie: You've printed several letters about what to do with old photographs. Every photo has a meaning to someone. And all those photos are history to a family. As a hobby, I scan all family photos and put them into a separate folder on my computer. I then edit them and burn them to a CD.
If the family has five members, I burn five CDs. The best part is, I do a family movie with music and burn that to a DVD so the family can watch it on TV. I also tell everyone to put the CDs and DVDs in a safe so they are protected from water or fire damage. — Mesa, Ariz.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.