Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.

Advice on manners and morals.
July 28 2005 6:35 AM

Playing Doctor

Responding to Tom Cruise's psychiatry rant.

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Dear Prudie,
After hearing Tom Cruise's ignorant and uninformed rant about psychiatry being a "pseudoscience," I had to write. Unfortunately, too many people listen to the opinions of celebrities and take them as gospel. Tom Cruise's irresponsible preaching could harm many people and increase the stigma our society already attaches to those with mental-health issues. I respect your support of the mental-health fields, so I hope this message can get to those folks who need help but are afraid to get it because of people like Mr. Cruise, who have easy access to the media. I am a licensed clinical psychologist currently providing care for our nation's military. I could only stare in disbelief at Mr. Cruise's announcement that psychiatric disorders "can be treated with exercise and vitamins." Part of a soldier's job is to exercise and be healthy, including taking vitamins as appropriate, and let me tell you, those things have never "cured" a psychiatric disorder yet. Tell a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder that exercise and vitamins will "cure" him, and he'll walk out of your office and continue suffering. Tell a suicidal young mother that exercise and vitamins will "cure" her, and you will leave her feeling just as hopeless as when she walked in. I don't know what "research" Mr. Cruise is reading that tells him there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance, but I suspect it is more of L. Ron Hubbard's. Talk to any reputable neurologist; it is not Mr. Cruise who can read the results of PET scans or functional MRIs. For those of you out there who are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other mental-health disorder, please don't listen to the preaching of celebrities who claim to be experts in mental health. Seek help from a licensed mental health provider. Contact your HMO, NAMI (the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), or talk to your family doctor for a referral. There are affordable mental-health options in every community.

—M.D., Ph.D

Dear M.,
Prudie seldom runs comment letters like yours, but it seemed worth doing in light of the massive publicity given to this particular actor's pronouncements. We must hope that thoughtful people do not take their medical directives from celebrities who have ties to a religion or a cult, however one wishes to see it. And of course Prudie is a lay person, but jumping up and down on a couch—on television—did suggest that this young man was, at the very least, manic.

—Prudie, consequentially

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Prudie,
I am getting married to a really great guy. Everything with him and the wedding planning is going wonderfully. However, when it comes to the topic of post-wedding housing we are having a bit of a problem. A friend of his thinks that our union is a free pass to "getting out on his own." He thinks that when we buy a house, he is going to live with us. It's not that I don't like his friend, but when we get married, I really don't want roommates. I have expressed concern to my future husband about this, and he agrees with me that the thing to do is to live together, just the two of us. However, anytime his friend brings it up, my guy just kind of smiles and nods. I would really like to tell his friend that his idea of rooming with us is just not going to happen, but I don't want to come off as a snob. How can I get rid of this unwanted house pest?

—Three's a Crowd

Dear Three,
Who gave this guy the idea that the three of you were getting married? It is quite odd that this friend decided he would begin married life with his buddy. You will not sound like snobbish (or in any way disagreeable) if you—actually, better your fiancé—spell out that you don't know how he got such an idea but, like most other newlyweds, you are beginning married life with only each other as roommates. Sheesh. Perhaps a nice touch to this upcoming conversation would be an invitation to the very first dinner party in your new dwelling.

—Prudie, bilaterally

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Dear Prudence,
I don't know how to respond when people ask me, "How many siblings do you have?" My older brother passed away at age 18, when I was 15. (I am now 19.) I have two sisters who are much older than I am. If, at first, I say, "I have two sisters," but then later in conversation I mention my brother, people feel awkward and confused. I also feel guilty for acting as if he never existed. But if I say right off that I have a brother, often there are follow-up questions that force me to say that he's dead, which causes discomfort all around. I don't want others to find out right off the bat, but I also shouldn't feel like I'm hiding something. How can I gracefully handle this harmless get-to-know-you question? Thanks for your help.

—Little Sister

Dear Lit,
Prudie suggests you respond to the sibling question by saying that you have two much-older sisters, and a brother who died four years ago at the age of 18. This makes any further reference to him understandable, and it allows people to say they are sorry. The conversation will move on, and the discomfort will be fleeting. Acknowledging a relative who was a part of your life, but is no longer, is certainly a basic piece of your story.

—Prudie, conversationally

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Dear Prudence,
I live in San Diego and work for the Navy as a civilian. In my office there are many nationalities—this being a national border town as well as a large city. My problem is this: There are a large group of Filipinos working in the office. They constantly talk together in their native language in their cubicles, the hallway, work stations, and around customers and employees who don't speak Tagalog. I find it rude. Do you have any suggestions? I even wonder if there is a law about this in federal buildings—that is, speaking English only.

—Loyal Reader

Dear Loy,
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a regulation addressing "English only" rules in the workplace, which would apply to federal employees as well as private employers. Although the regulation gives employers room to require that only English be spoken in particular situations—where justified by business necessity—it looks askance at workplace policies that require employees to speak English at all times. One sentence of the regulation states, "The primary language of an individual is often an essential national origin characteristic." It would be perfectly proper to inform any of this group that when speaking to members of the public, or at office meetings, they must speak English. However, conversing among themselves in a cubicle or at the water cooler has nothing to do with you. Prudie suggests you cool your jets on what has clearly become an annoyance. Try to imagine if you and some English-speaking buddies were in a country where another language predominated.

—Prudie, dalawa ang bibig