Dear Annie: When my son was a teenager, he attempted suicide three times. My daughter has attempted suicide twice. Her 16-year-old son left a note, but she discovered it and took him to a hospital.
I have moments of complete sadness, but I have never tried to kill myself. Does this suicidal tendency run in families? Is there a "suicide gene"? — Granny to Eleven
Dear Granny: We contacted the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and here is what they said:
Suicide is often misunderstood. Genetics is only a part of the story. In fact, there is no single cause for suicide. Mental health problems are also a contributor to suicide risk, and they run in families, too. Most people who have a mental illness don't try to kill themselves, but it does put you at a higher risk: Nine out of 10 people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. These illnesses are often treatable, but unfortunately, people suffering from illnesses like depression and anxiety do not seek treatment; they think they have to battle these problems on their own. You would not try to fight cancer on your own, so why tackle depression alone?
Suicide attempts — or even thoughts about killing yourself — are clear signs of distress, and you should consult a mental health professional as soon as possible. Since your family has a history of attempts, it is especially important that you all stay on top of your mental health by regularly "checking in" with a mental health professional or your doctor, and with each other. You can't make someone suicidal by talking about it, and they may feel relief when you ask.
You can learn more about suicide research and prevention at afsp.org. If you or your family members are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Dear Annie: My husband and I grew up in the Midwest. We moved to Arizona 25 years ago to get out of the cold and snowy winters and hot, sticky summers. We live in a beautiful town.
My pet peeve is that family never comes to visit. They expect us to do all of the traveling in order to see them. Meanwhile, they go on lovely vacations elsewhere and tell us they have limited vacation time and can't get to us. Well, so do we.
I can count on one hand the number of times we have had visitors, and every time it has been for a major event. To our families: Please come visit. You can stay with us, no hotel room needed. We live in a beautiful area. Planes go both ways. Why should we do all the traveling? — Getting It Off My Chest
Dear Getting: People who move away from their hometown often find that they are expected to return for visits more often, simply because it is "home" and usually there are multiple relatives you can see at the same time. For those same relatives to visit you, it requires planning an individual vacation. We agree that it is unfair, but it's unlikely to change. Make sure your family members know that they are welcome and you'd love to see them. You can't do more than that.
Dear Annie: This is for all of the grandparents who live near their children but don't get to spend as much time with them as they'd like.
My son and daughter-in-law have three young children under the age of 5. I invite them to our home for a meal once a week and offer to bring a meal to their home once a week. This lightens their load and gives us time to visit. And I feel greatly appreciated and have become close to my grandchildren. — J.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.