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What To Do if You Have No Proof Someone Will Hurt Themselves But You Suspect They Will?

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Hi, I’m pretty sure that my brother has always suffered from depression. He has always bottled things up. He won’t talk to anyone about anything serious, especially if it concerns his feelings. When teased or picked on he fights with sarcasm, but when he is truly hurt he completely shuts down. He becomes so quiet it is alarming. My mother and I have told him many times that speaking to someone might help him. People who bottle things up have a tendency to snap like a worn rubber band. He could hurt himself or someone else. He always says that he will think about it, but he never actually follows through. I’ve also considered it possible that he maybe has mild autism because, while he is an academically brilliant man, he doesn’t pick up on social cues an finds it really hard to interact with people. I know he wants to. I’ve seen him try so many times. People have always told me my brother is weird, but I always tell them that they just don’t understand him. It seems so much of his depression is stemming from his inability to connect the way he wants to. For the past few days things have gotten worse. He had a date and he was so excited. It went well and he got a 2nd date. However, the 2nd date apparently did not go well. My brother came home early and would not respond to anything said whether questions or praise and love. He looks empty on the inside now. He has isolated himself in his room at my parents and wont come out. Not even for a “smokey treat” as is his normal routine. I’ve gone in a couple of times and he is in bed. He might be sleeping, but I don’t think he is. He doesn’t talk or respond to me. All I know to do is tell him that I love him. I did notice that he has started to delete all of his social networking accounts. I think he is giving up, on dating, on himself, and possibly life. I am scared he may hurt himself, but I don’t have proof. I have nothing I can go to the magistrates office with. He doesn’t have a history of self harm or suicide attempts, or a history of harming others, or ever talk about these things. However, my father didn’t either until he attempted to throw himself off the largest overpass in our city. How can I help my brother, when he either cannot or will not help himself and I have no apparent legal recourse.

What To Do if You Have No Proof Someone Will Hurt Themselves But You Suspect They Will?

Answered by on -


It’s difficult to sit by and watch someone you love suffer, especially when you know that help is available. It’s a helpless feeling.

Unfortunately, your options are limited. As an adult, your brother has the right to refuse treatment, unless he poses an imminent danger to himself or to others. In many, but not all states, the imminent danger standard prevails. That means that in order to be hospitalized against one’s will, there must be clear and convincing evidence that an individual might harm themselves or someone else.

You can review the commitment laws for your state to determine what would be necessary for an involuntarily commitment. That information can be found on the Treatment Advocacy Center website.

You can and should continue to support your brother and continue suggesting that he seek help. Maybe offer to attend the first appointment with him, if he’d be willing.

Another option to consider is a family intervention. This would involve the family getting together and voicing their concerns as a group. If you choose that option, you might want to consult a family therapist for guidance.

Another idea is to contact the local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) community group and ask for their assistance. Many communities have a NAMI office, staffed with people who are facing similar problems with their family members.

There may be a local mental health crisis team with whom you can discuss this issue. They may have suggestions for how to deal with your brother.

You might try all of the aforementioned ideas and your brother still might not be receptive. You can’t force someone into treatment if they don’t want it. Sometimes, there are no easy answers to these types of problems. All you can do is try every idea you can think of and when you’ve done that, you will have done all that you can. If you feel as though he might be a danger to himself or to others, contact the authorities. If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to write again.

What To Do if You Have No Proof Someone Will Hurt Themselves But You Suspect They Will?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). What To Do if You Have No Proof Someone Will Hurt Themselves But You Suspect They Will?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 30 Oct 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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