Family tragedy raises concern about history of mental illness

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DEAR ABBY: I have a 14-year-old daughter I have raised alone. Her father has never been in her life, nor has he been in the lives of his other children with other women. He has a long history of criminal behavior and mental illness. Although he hasn’t been part of her life, I have done everything in my power to keep her in touch with her siblings.

I just learned via the news and social media that her brother who is also 14 (and lives nearby with his grandparents), is being charged with two counts of capital murder. He reportedly shot both his grandparents. He had no other previous issues, and there were no warning signs.

I am torn inside trying to figure out how to break the news to my daughter. She’s going through her own teenage issues, and I’m afraid the news will crush her. I need to figure this out ASAP, before she hears about it at school or from social media. My other major concern as a parent is, could their father have passed along to her his mental illness? — SCARED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR SCARED: This kind of awful news travels via television, social media and word of mouth faster than lightning. By the time this letter is published, your daughter will have already learned about this family tragedy.

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Rarely, if ever, does this kind of acting out happen in a vacuum. Healthy children and young adults rarely — if ever — “snap” out of nowhere. Because you are concerned about the level of stress your daughter is experiencing, please waste no time in scheduling some sessions for BOTH of you with a licensed mental health professional. If this will create financial hardship, contact the department of mental health in your community because through it you may be able to find a therapist who charges on a sliding financial scale.

DEAR ABBY: My beloved husband died in 1993 from an AIDS-related cancer. He contracted the disease from a blood transfusion during surgery. I elected to tell only close family members about his HIV. I was still quite young when he died.

Now when people ask me why I didn’t remarry, I don’t know how to reply. I didn’t contract the disease from him, but people are still fearful of the word AIDS. I have never dated or sought a relationship with a man since my husband’s passing. I still love him and have no regrets, but I don’t know what to say. Please help. — LONGTIME WIDOW

DEAR LONGTIME WIDOW: You are under no obligation to tell your life story to someone who asks that question casually. To someone like that, all you should say is what you wrote to me, “I still love him, and I have no regrets.” The rest is nobody’s business.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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