DR. WALLACE: A boy and I dated for over a year. When we first went out, we had a good time and I was really impressed with him. About four months ago I realized I no longer cared for him and would soon end the relationship. It's taken me till now to do so. Our breakup has really affected him. He calls me almost every night crying and begging me to come back to him. He has threatened to quit school (he's 18) and join the Army.
Last night he called and said that if I didn't return to him, he would commit suicide. This really got to me. I would never recover if he killed himself because of me. Now I'm confused and scared. What should I do? Please hurry with your response. Do you think I should start dating him again? — Nameless, Houston, Tex.
NAMELESS: This is emotional blackmail. It's definitely not a reason to start dating him again. That would be disastrous for both of you. I don't blame you for being confused and scared, however. You should have one of your parents contact his parents and tell them about the threats he's made. Next, tell the school counselor what has been taking place. Are his threats serious? It's possible, but you are not responsible for his emotional behavior.
GAMBLING COULD BECOME ADDICTIVE
TEENS: Just for the fun of it, you start to buy a lottery ticket every week. After all, the funds go to help schools, don't they? And what if you did bet $5 on the World Series? Five dollars isn't a lot of money to lose and when you win, what a great feeling it would be. So what's the harm in a little wager now and again?
Well, it could become addictive. That's the real harm.
Writer Judith Newman, estimates that 1 million teens in the United States and Canada have a problem with gambling. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, over 29,000 underage kids are kicked out of casinos every year, and even more get the heave-ho in Las Vegas and Reno.
Fifty percent of all high school students have gambled at one time or another, according to Durand Jacobs, Ph.D., who studies juvenile gambling. Of those, one in five feel they'd like to stop but can't. Why? Persistent boredom, low self-esteem and a need to escape criticism at home, reports Dr. Jacobs. And unlike drug or alcohol abuse, gambling is still seen as a socially acceptable thrill.
Kids have been known to blow trust funds, to steal, or to sell drugs for the next cash "fix." At the age of 17, a girl made headlines when she gambled away her college tuition money at an Atlantic City casino blackjack table.
Of course, just because you play the lottery or bingo from time to time doesn't mean you have a problem — but there are warning signs. For example, do you feel you become a better person when you gamble — or more self-assured, or more powerful? Do you feel as if you're in a trance? Do you gamble more than once a week? Do you consistently try to win back losses?
Fortunately, there are help groups for teenage gamblers. If you think you have a problem or simply want to learn more, call the National Council on Problem Gambling at (800) 522-4700.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column.
E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.