My brother just started working at a company as an independent contractor and since then he has starting telling my parents and me that they (his co-workers) are all playing secret mind games with him. He’s telling us he’s met them before and describing in very elaborate details about those encounters that supposedly happened years ago while he was in college. He’s also convinced that one of his new co-workers is related to a former boss and when I did the research to prove to him it’s not true he could not accept this reality and then changed his story to make them relatives again, ex: “Well they must be cousins then.” He has also told me mom he thinks people are watching him. I tried talking to him last night to ask him if he would consider talking to a psychiatrist about these issues and he claims he’s fine. I’ve done as much research as possible on his wild stories to see if there is any truth in them and there simply is none but he is convinced that they did happen. I’m worried sick about him and I’m not sure how to proceed with getting him the help he clearly needs.
A. I believe your concerns are valid. Your brother believes in things that aren’t true despite evidence to the contrary. That is the definition of a delusion. He also seems to be paranoid. Delusions and paranoia are symptoms of psychosis. Though he is exhibiting symptoms of psychosis, I cannot determine with certainty whether or not he is psychotic. Only an in-person, mental health evaluation could properly make that determination. Nevertheless, his symptoms are concerning.
Continue to encourage your brother to seek help. You should also discuss your concerns with your family and perhaps you, as a group, could convince him to seek help. If there are friends of his that you can include, this might help as well. Do everything within your power to convince him to seek professional help.
It’s important to realize the limits of your power in this situation. Continue to try to convince him to seek help but recognize that he has the right to say no. Generally speaking, adults cannot be forced into treatment unless there is evidence that they are a danger to themselves or to others. That is the nature of the mental health laws in the United States.
If you believe that he is a threat to himself or to others, then you should call the authorities. Another option is to call the local mental health crisis team who will come to the home, assess your brother’s condition and determine if he needs to be hospitalized. If they believe that he needs to be hospitalized, they will take the necessary steps to commit him.
In the meantime, try to do all that you can to convince your brother to consult a mental health professional. That may include you finding a healthcare provider for him or going to the appointment with him, if he would allow. He may be open to those things. Another option to consider is family therapy. He may be open to that form of treatment because all members of the family could attend the sessions, not just him alone. Your family may have other ideas as well.
I hope this answer assists you in knowing how to proceed with your brother. I wish I had a better answer for you with regard to how to best help your brother. The reality is that people have the right to refuse treatment in this country even if they are clearly mentally unstable. Until this changes, your power is limited. If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to write again. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Jun 2014
Randle, K. (2014). Brother Can’t Accept that “Memories Of Past” Never Really Happened. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 2, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/10/brother-cant-accept-that-memories-of-past-never-really-happened/