Help me help my brother

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello, i have a brother who often gets depressed to the extremes when he sees other people from school he knows who have girlfriends and are in groups because he has no friends and has some social concerns. He is a junior in high school and im his younger brother. I feel like it is my job always to watch him and make sure he is okay. He is not one who you can sit down and have a talk without swearing and arguments. He is very difficult.

Recently we have recieved help and he has been taking vitamin d which has helped very little. He never drinks milk or orange juice or any calcium rich foods.

It often depresses me to see him so sad. I feel like i dont have an opinion, i must always agree with him to keep him happy and i do not want to. He has no job and no drivers license, he always is very health concerned though, he doesnt want to drive because fear of an accident, he wants to get a physical. He is somewhat over weight.

This has started happening since early january during winter. He has never once before this been depressed. He had no care for friends or anything. For instance yesterday was his confirmation at church and of course you have to walk infront of the whole church filled with people from school, he seemed okay till after when he started going off. He said he didnt want to be around us, he even called the bishop a piece of work! I know he cant help it but i want help, he has a psychologist he is working with but what medication and things we can do get rid of this fog that is blocking my familys happiness. Please help because i NEED it!

A: Your brother is a lucky man to have such a concerned younger brother. I can tell it pains you deeply to see him so lonely and upset but it’s also getting to you. You were right to ask for some help.

My best suggestion is that you talk to your parents. If you haven’t already done so, let them know how much your brother’s state is hurting you. You wrote a very thoughtful and articulate letter. If you can’t bring yourself to tell your folks, ask them to read your letter and this response. I think it would be helpful for you all to ask for a family consultation with your brother’s psychologist. His depression is affecting your whole family. You could all probably use some support as well as some guidance about how best to be helpful. As part of that meeting, you could discuss what treatment options (like medication) could be explored that might move things along. The psychologist will need your brother’s permission and, hopefully, his participation to make this happen. If your brother won’t consent to a family meeting, consider asking for a referral to a family therapist who can help the family learn ways to avoid getting caught up in his illness as well as ways to help him.

Another resource for you and your family is NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness. There is a chapter in your city. NAMI offers support groups and resources (both in person and online) to families and friends of the mentally ill. It’s often a relief for people to talk with other families who are going through the same kinds of things. People share resources, give each other affirmation and suggestions, and are there for each other through the tough times and the successes.

I’m very glad you wrote to us. There is help available. You and your parents don’t have to figure this out all on your own.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Help me help my brother. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/18/help-me-help-my-brother-2/