How Can I Help My Brother?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. My brother keeps on rebuilding his life every 6mths and drinks and smokes heavily and has started to be very aggressive. My brother(Tom) has just been to visit my Mum and her new husband( Tony,2yrs married). My Dad died of Liver cancer 7 yrs ago. He has just left a damaging relationship of 10mths in Leeds to a women similar to him but after therapy. She had just called the police on him due to his violent behaviour. He said he called police and needed to relax in France and earn some money helping my Mum on the old house. All seemed great, he had been spending half of day on great form and then after lunch hiding in his room on the internet lookiging for work and being very moody! Yesterday he was told that our grandmother of 86 yrs wasn’t going to come out of her sleep. He took this as a great excuse to DRINK bottled beer. He got drunk and then started to hit my step Dad and smash photo frames and damage furniture. He was like a mad pocessed crazed man my Mum said. Tony took Tom to the ferry port and gave him £300 and sent him off back to the UK.

This has been the story of his life pattern he has problems keeping friends and staying in one place he has now started to say I have voices in my head saying”distroy everything”. I am worried for his safety and well being. If he calls me what advise can I give him I am not sure if he is schizophrenic or an alcoholic. He says he drinks only when stressed and that has been most of the time he seems to have problems with his behaviour after only a moderate couple of bottles or half a bottle of wine.He always needs something in his hand if not beer its cigarette even strong coffee.Pattern has got worse over last 2 years. He goes on benders and doesn’t care about others most of the time. He can seem so normal and lovely and then this has just happened.

I look forward to hearing from you as I don’t know where to go to with this serious problem he has! Many thanks.

A. You should advise him to seek help from mental health professionals. It is difficult to know what is happening to him when he drinks and gets out of control. He may be drinking to cover up the voices you said he hears or it could be that the alcohol is part of the reason he hears voices. Either way, it is imperative that he seek some form of assistance.

Based on your letter, your brother has not been stable for most of his adult life and it seems to be getting worse. He is now at the point where he is acting out violently towards members of your family. This makes him dangerous.

Suggest to him (while he is sober) that he might benefit from mental health assistance. Perhaps, if the two of you are close (emotionally), you might be willing to go with him for support (i.e. drive him to the facility, help him choose where to go, etc.). If he has support he might be more willing to attend treatment. You and the rest of your family might go to him and request that he seek some sort of assistance. If the family approaches him with the same consistent message — “please get help” — this might be more powerful than you talking to him alone.

If he does not get help or he continues to drink, there may be little that you can do. You cannot force anyone to seek treatment. If he is a danger to you or your family you may have to resort to calling the authorities. This of course would be a measure of last resort but one that must be used if he places you or your family in danger.

This is a difficult problem to solve because it requires that your brother realize that he needs help. Do your best to assist him in getting help and keep trying until you feel that you have done all that you can. He is fortunate to have a sister who cares about his well-being. Thanks for writing and please write again if you have any follow-up questions.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Jun 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). How Can I Help My Brother?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/06/16/how-can-i-help-my-brother/

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