Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I hope you can help me, although it's my husband who needs help. "John" is a wonderful husband and father. I love him dearly. When he was in high school, he was always picked on by the jocks. (We all know that story.) Well, John carried this on into his adult life and his business.

My husband has two partners. "Gene" is a "nerd" like John. The other one, "Don," is the "jock." The company is 10 years old. They made about $5 million last year. All three have equal shares of this company.

Don handles all of the accounting. He keeps his door locked at all times when he's not there, as he should because of all the checks, etc. But does he leave an extra key for Gene or John? No! He leaves it with the secretary, and she takes it home with her. Don gets very upset if John or Gene goes into his office without his permission.

The way Don has his accounting program set up, John and Gene cannot access any financial information on the company. They have to go through him first. I strongly suspect Don is embezzling.

They have never had an audit done. John and Gene wouldn't dare insist on one, because Don would get furious if they did. Don gets upset over the most minor things. Gene and my husband are afraid of Don. They've caught him in several lies. He treats everybody like dirt. They fight and argue on a daily basis. It's a terrible atmosphere. Yet they won't do anything about it.

Any suggestions? -- DEPRESSED IN TEXAS

DEAR DEPRESSED: The three partners should get together and agree to have an independent C.P.A. (selected by all three) set up their accounting system so that all three partners can understand what's happening financially, and the necessary security is preserved. If Don refuses to agree to it, then Gene and John should consult a lawyer.

DEAR ABBY: Today, 14 days short of his 56th birthday, we buried my beloved younger brother. He died by his own hand two days before his first scheduled appointment with a psychiatrist. He had been referred by the general practitioners who had been treating him for the past two months.

Bipolar or manic depressive disorder has ravaged my family for many generations. It is, indeed, an inherited genetic disorder. But there is a wonderful treatment for it -- in the form of lithium carbonate. I can attest to this. I am a diagnosed manic depressive and, thanks to lithium, I have led a normal, productive life for the past 12 years.

If only I had realized how ill my brother was, perhaps I could have gotten him to treatment in time. If only the GPs had realized this was beyond their expertise, perhaps they could have referred him to a psychiatrist earlier and this tragedy could have been averted. If only, if only.

Nothing will bring back my younger brother, but maybe our experience can help someone else. Thank you for letting me vent, Abby. -- GRIEVING BROTHER, TAYLORS, S.C.

DEAR GRIEVING: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your beloved brother, but take heart in the thought that your letter may save the lives of countless others. People who know there is a history of bipolar disorder in the family should alert their doctors to it. Also, those who are experiencing mood swings should seek a referral to a psychiatrist who can help them restore the balance in their brain chemistry.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600