My brother is talking about suicide. How do we talk to him about it?: Ask Ellie


Q: My younger brother has suffered from depression in the past few years. Last year, at Christmas time, he was down, talking about suicide.

My family and I were able to help him with a doctor we knew, and with the help of anti-depressants, he was fine.

When someone is suicidal, seek professional help immediately, writes Ellie Tesher.
When someone is suicidal, seek professional help immediately, writes Ellie Tesher. (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

A few months ago he was injured in a sports accident and could not work. He and his girlfriend moved into my parents' house with us and there was a steady decline in their mental health – very withdrawn, very sleepy, lacking in will, little appetite, apathetic.

We're trying to make him feel good again, taking him out of the house to do something fun, but he keeps rejecting us.

My dad recently made him get back to work at his company. He was initially excited about this, but when my dad said he was starting right away, he was extremely annoyed as he did not have time to prepare.

His girlfriend said that he mentioned suicide again and now we are all at an advantage in the house.

How do we approach this subject in a sensitive way? We're trying to get him to go to the doctor again.

Very worried sister

AN: When a very depressed person is mentioning suicide, the situation is urgent to take action. Your family is not equipped to deal with this alone. He needs to go to a mental health specialist right away.

If he can not or can not see his doctor immediately, take him to the mental health clinic or emergency department of a hospital.

Explain to your girlfriend and family that although your father is well, his sudden deadline is a lot of pressure on his brother right now.

Then, assure your brother that getting help will relieve your deep inner pain. Among all of you who love you, you should be able to stay proactive and get a plan for evaluation, diagnosis, and psychiatric treatment.

Example: In Toronto, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is a psychiatric teaching hospital with community and central facilities throughout the province.

FEEDBACK Concerning what parents in their 70s should have done when two adult children decided to host the Christmas dinner together, but they refused to invite a brother or accept him to host it (December 15).

I advised him to spend it in a meaningful way – perhaps by helping out at a food bank, or with close friends to show his disapproval of sulky adult children.

Reader # 1 – "Maybe arrange for everyone to dine at a local shelter dinner to remind them that there is much more unhappiness and much more goodwill from those less fortunate than is imagined in their disputes."

Reader # 2 – "I believe that not having Christmas, even with the excluded brother, punishes him for not doing anything wrong.

"He / she clearly understands the importance of family joining for a holiday and does not hold resentments."

Reader # 3 – "I agree with you. Parents should not attend Christmas dinner for older children.

"Their exclusion is not only bad, but it is deeply painful and disrespectful to parents. They certainly have not learned from their parents' example. The fact that they are not inviting this brother because they simply "are not close" is incomprehensible.

"Parents should go somewhere else where they are appreciated. These two older offspring should be ashamed to cause this unnecessary hurt to their brothers and parents. I'm not sure if I'd even send a Christmas card to them. "

The tip of Ellie's day

When someone is suicidal, seek professional help immediately.

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Ellie Tesher is a Toronto-based Star Advisory columnist. Send your questions by e-mail: [email protected]


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