Dear Amy:

I recently found out some startling news about one of my close friends. One day I noticed some cuts on her arm; when I confronted her about it, I found out she cuts herself. She says it relieves some of the stress of her life and she doesn't do it to kill herself, but I am still worried about her. I do not think that cutting herself is a healthy way to relieve stress.

My friend made me promise not to tell anyone. If I do tell someone, I do not want her to think I betrayed her. I have a feeling, though, that I may have to speak up. What can I do to help her? Is there anyway I can do this without involving another person?

Worried Friend

Your friend's willingness to talk to you about her self-injury is important. Her inability to express her feelings in healthy ways contributes to her desire to cut herself.

"Cutting," like other forms of self-abuse, can be a progressive illness -- meaning that it is likely to get worse unless your friend gets some outside help in dealing with her feelings and emotions. People who "cut" describe it exactly as your friend has -- as a release from pent-up feelings.

Talking about feelings can help relieve the desire to cut, and if you are willing to listen to your friend and spend time with her, that will help.

Unfortunately, your friend has extracted a promise from you that as a true friend you cannot keep. Your friend is in pain, and you owe it to her to try to get help for her. You need to tell her that you won't be able to keep her secret and that you will be there for her during her struggle with this illness.

You should tell your parents about this. You could also contact your school counselor to notify him or her of this problem and ask for help.

Helpful information and research on self-injury is available through the American Self-Harm Information Clearinghouse at

Dear Amy:

We bought a house in a quiet neighborhood and had been enjoying peaceful nights until our neighbors bought a hot tub. Now, from time to time, we have trouble sleeping because they are in the tub just outside our bedroom window. We can hear them talking and laughing as clearly as if they were inside our house. They have been out there as late as midnight, and we generally go to bed at 10 because we have to be up before 6 a.m.

We aren't really able to move our bedroom, except perhaps to the basement, and I don't want to do that. They are very friendly and considerate people. I need a way to phrase a polite request for quiet after a certain hour.

Sleepless in the Midwest

You should assume that your neighbors have no idea of how the sound carries, especially at night when it's otherwise quiet and clear. Just say to your neighbor, "Margaret, did you know that we can hear you clear as a bell when you and Stan are in the hot tub? There's something like an echo chamber between our houses and the sound carries straight up to our bedroom. You know how early we get up -- do you think that we could arrive at a curfew?"

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