DEAR ABBY: I am happily married with a great wife. I also have a platonic female friend, "Tina," I have known for many years and who suffers from depression. She and I have been getting together for the last few months over tea, and I usually let her air what's on her mind in an effort to alleviate her depression.
We also go for walks occasionally and sometimes hold hands. I feel guilty doing this, but there is absolutely no threat at all of us ever becoming intimate. I worry that if I don't befriend Tina she might commit suicide, which would make me feel terrible. I also worry about being seen in her company by one of my wife's friends and the whole thing becoming a big misunderstanding. I value Tina's friendship, but also do not want to jeopardize my marriage. What should I do? -- BEWILDERED IN RENO
DEAR BEWILDERED: First of all, recognize your limitations. If you sincerely believe Tina is so depressed that if you stop holding hands with her during your walks she might end her life, then please urge her to get professional help. She would be better served if she was "airing what's on her mind" with a therapist who can counsel her and possibly give her medical treatment for her illness -- because that's what depression is, an illness.
It's all right to stand by your friend in her time of need, but if your alarm bells are going off and you're getting "nervous about being seen," then you are, perhaps, seeing her too often and getting closer than you should, both physically and emotionally. Please think about it.