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Family Tragedy Raises Concern About History of Mental Illness

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.

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.

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