Q. Thank you for you column about suicide. My father took his own life when I was 12. I’ve never gotten over it. I watched my mother destroy herself with guilt. She died when I was 33 from cancer, but she was never the same person after his death.
Note: I’ve updated this column twice, as this is Suicide Prevention Week. Please listen to the young people in your life. I wrote Nonnie Talks about Mental Health in May of 2021. The book is for trusted adults and young people and begins with a college student who attempts suicide.
When I received this week’s question, it sounded very familiar. I looked back through my past columns and found two on the subject, one from September 2007 and one from September 2019. Some life challenges are timeless. The question from today follows.
Q. Why are people hating my mom? She’s a nurse. She works in a COVID-19 unit. She’s been there forever, like since the pandemic. She worries about me and my brothers. She changes and showers before she touches us. She wears all kinds of gear at work to protect us. She’s vaccinated, so is my …
Q. Am I the only kid worried about going back to school? Most kids I know are all excited and stuff, but I’m scared to death.
Q. I’m afraid. My mom had breast cancer and died when I was three. I don’t really remember her, except for the stories people tell me that I sometimes think maybe I remember. My aunt raised me. Now she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s my mom’s sister. My grandma died of ovarian cancer.
Q. I’m 18 now. Technically, I’m an adult. Can you help me figure something out?
Q. My dog died. It’s been over two weeks and I can’t seem to get over it. I was 5 when we got him and he was pretty much my dog. I took care of him, he slept in my bed, we ran all over together. It’s my fault he’s dead. We were at a park near my house and I took him off his leash so he could…
Q. I wrote this at 10 p.m. on Father’s Day. It’s a day that is hard for me. I read your column last week on emotional abuse and saw myself. My father was emotionally abusive my whole life. He terrified me. He died of a heart attack when I was 14. Everyone expected me to mourn him. I felt onl…
Q. How can you tell if a friend is being emotionally abused? My other friends and I are worried. One of our friends acts like he might be. His parents got divorced two years ago and his mom remarried. We’ve watched him change for the worse. He used to be loud and funny and full of fun, but n…
Q. This is all your fault!
Q. I got into the college of my choice. My first choice. My parents are thrilled. I even have a nice scholarship.
Q. Is it possible to be happy and sad at the same time? I graduate high school soon and I’m beyond happy to be finished. I’m going to college. I’m excited. No offense, but I can’t wait to get out of this small town. I want to see life in a big city. I want to explore things I could never do here.
Q. I used to talk about being a registered nurse during your breaks when you taught at my high school. I didn’t do the nurse thing, I became a social worker, but I did follow my dream of caring for others.
Q. My friend died when we were in ninth grade. He had cancer. He was sick over a year and I knew he probably wouldn’t make it, but his death hit me hard.
Q. How do you turn a bad relationship into a good one? This question is both for me and for my mom. My boyfriend can be sweet, but he also scares me sometimes. He can be mean. Just with words, not physically. My mom’s boyfriend never hits her or anything like that, but there are days when he…
Q. You taught me in high school. I still remember the first day of class, when you wrote your name and your cell number on the whiteboard and said, “Call me any time.” I thought, “Is this white lady for real?” I found you were.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Q. I’ve talked with you about this in the past and I can always count on you listening and hearing me and helping. I’m writing now to ask you to use my words in your column.
I thought these questions from 11 and 12-year-olds in my growing up classes might bring joy. As always, they are 100% real and unedited for content. I answer all questions. Education matters.
Q. I’m in love. Notice I didn’t say I think I’m in love. I know I am. I just need help with my family.
Q. I’ve been a Type I juvenile diabetic since I was almost 3 years old. I don’t remember being at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh then, unless you count some vague clouds of memory involving a pretty big fear of needles. Now, 15 years later, it’s all just normal to me. Why am I writin…
Q. I read your last column with great interest. I wish you could talk with our daughter. I’m a grandma to three wonderful grandkids. Our son and his wife have one child and they are great parents. Our daughter is the problem. She has two daughters, 7 and 9. She and her husband run their home…
Q. I want my baby back! Up until now, parenting our only child has been a dream. She was an easy baby who slept through the night at 3 months. Toddlerhood was a breeze. I kept waiting for tantrums that never came. As a preschooler, she was fun, bright, and obedient. She loved school from the start.
Q. Is it wrong to stay with someone just so I’m not alone on Valentine’s Day? I plan to break up right afterward. My friend says that makes me greedy. It’s not about presents. It’s because I’ve never had a “valentine” before and I really want one. Does that make me greedy?
Q. What if I can’t adjust to being in school face-to-face? I’ve never been that popular kid but now I don’t see my friends at all and I feel alone. It was easier when we learned online because it wasn’t so obvious that no one wants to be my friend.
Q. Our daughter is afraid to go back to school because of COVID-19.
I was honored to receive more than 40 texts or calls from young people from Jan. 6 through Jan. 8. I scheduled and held four emergency zoom calls in addition to the two we host daily for teens. These are two of those young people’s words, printed by request.
Children and young people are wise. They watch adults, they listen, they absorb adult emotions and become worried about adult concerns.
Q. I know everyone is different and all but I think I will never be like the other guys in my class. Everyone got taller over the summer. A couple of guys are growing beards. OK, not exactly beards, but facial hair. I got nothing. School was awkward because of how short I still am but I have…
Q. I’m not a teenager, not even close but, like you, I believe our youth are the future and must be nurtured. I wonder if you can address something that upsets me terribly. As we know Dr Rachel Levine is transgender. She’s also a brilliant infectious disease expert. When her recommendations …
Q. COVID-19 makes everything complicated. I have great parents. They divorced last February. They did it in the best way anyone could. They talked with me. They both told me they love me. They said it wasn’t my fault. They offered me counseling. They don’t even bash each other to me. I have …
Q. I broke up with my high school boyfriend the summer between graduation and college. It really was an amicable break up. We were both going to schools out of state. We were together 14 months and made some great memories senior year, but I really didn’t think I loved him. Then, after we br…
I’ve had an increase in questions during the pandemic. I attribute the jump to two possibilities – young people have more time on their hands and are lonelier, and, if attending online classes only, teens have lost their in-school safety net of guidance counselors and teachers.
Q. Is it wrong to not want to go back to school in person? I have social anxiety and online classes help. I don’t miss seeing people at school because I don’t like interaction with others. I’m not rude, or even shy, but I just prefer being by myself. The anxiety comes when I’m forced to be i…
I received so many reactions to last week’s column about families and fighting that I selected a few for comment.
Q. My teacher doesn’t like me. No matter what I do, she doesn’t call on me. I put my hand up and get ignored. She never says anything nice about my work, even when I get a good grade on a test. I told my dad and he said I need to suck it up. I told my gram and she said she would march down t…
Education matters to me. I know education is more than academics. Socialization, peer competition, sports, theater, concerts, clubs, interactions with teachers and mentors, just hanging out in the cafeteria. So much is different this new school year.
Q. I need help with my anger. I’ve been asking you questions since seventh grade, texted you some flat out stupid stuff and some serious questions. I always stayed anonymous and told you to keep my questions private. You did as I asked.
Q. This is a serious question. Do I tell my boys, ages 6 and 9, that Chadwick Boseman, the wonderful actor who brought King T ‘Challa to life in “Black Panther,” has died? They both adore the movie, their rooms are full of “Black Panther” posters and toys, and we had a “Black Panther” themed…
Q. You taught me in high school and I still remember how much I loved your classes. I’m a teacher now, and virtual teaching is new to me, so I really enjoyed your column last week. Can you please offer some hints for student participation online?
Q. Hey Mary Jo, I had my first virtual class day for the new year and it was … pretty much a mess. Our school is all online now. I felt bad for my teachers. They really tried, but between student zooms that glitched and people who cannot seem to figure out how to mute or sit up straight, I w…
During this challenging summer, our peer educator facilitators and I were thrilled to interact with 192 12- to- 14-year-olds in our virtual summer camps. I thought some of the unsolicited questions sent to me during the camps via private Zoom chat might bring smiles!
Q. I’m so scared of going back to school. I mean, I want to see my friends. I want to go back to class. I even miss my teachers. I’m not scared for me. I’m scared for my gram and pap.
As promised, more good news from our Virtual Summer Camps.