Annie's Mailbox Try to help depressed friends

Dear Annie: I am a sophomore in college and share an apartment with four other girls. We are seriously concerned about our roommate, "Sherry." She never goes to class anymore (she rarely went last year), and she sleeps until 5 p.m. Because she avoids bathing and has done laundry only a few times this past semester, she is starting to stink up the entire apartment.
More importantly, we are worried that her behavior could be a sign of depression. Sherry already is on anti-anxiety medication. We're not really close to her, and if we bring up her mental health, she is likely to become defensive and yell at us. What should we do? Concerned Roommate in Wisconsin
Dear Roommate: The four of you must talk to Sherry, even if she becomes defensive and yells. So what? You can take it, and she needs your help. Tell her she ought to see someone at the school's health clinic and offer to go with her. Give her the Web sites of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance ( and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill ( or (800) 950-NAMI).
Ask if she'd like you to call her parents. Sherry may be relieved to know someone cares enough to confront her. And if she refuses to get help, or you notice that she is getting worse, talk to a counselor on campus and ask for advice. You would never forgive yourselves if something happened and you stood by and did nothing.
Dear Annie: I have disagreed with some of your responses but never felt strongly enough to write. However, your response to "Confused in Ohio" sent me right through the roof.
"Confused" said her friend's elderly father looked at child pornography on the Internet. How could you advise the women to talk to her friend again, saying, "Grandpa should get counseling before he gets arrested"? You should have told her to get on the phone and report this to the authorities.
Viewing child pornography supports an industry that has hurt many children and destroyed lives. Just because the children in the pictures aren't living in his home doesn't excuse his behavior. The children in those photographs are being hurt and exploited. The fact that others in the house know about Grandpa's interests and do nothing means they should face criminal charges as well. I can't believe you would not take this more seriously. What were you thinking? L.T. in California
Dear L.T.: We were thinking that it does little good to offer advice that is not going to be followed. It would have been simple to tell "Confused" to call the police and have them arrest the father of her best friend, but she isn't likely to do it.
We hoped discussing this more emphatically with her friend, telling her that Dad's behavior was not normal, that he could be arrested, and that the grandchildren were at risk, would push the family to take action. But many readers agreed with you that "Confused" should call the authorities. Here's one more:
From Memphis, Tenn.: My sister and I and many of our neighborhood children were left with a kindly old grandfather when we were very small. He seemed to love children. Indeed he did, in more ways than you can imagine. While in his care, we were forced to look at pornography, and my sister was repeatedly taken into his bedroom on her own. He told us not to tell, and for whatever reason, we did not.
Child pornography is a horrendous crime committed by sick individuals. Anyone who finds pleasure in such activities should be reported immediately to the police. If her friend is too stupid to protect the grandchildren, "Confused" should do it for her, even if the price is the loss of the friendship.
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