What to do if the “butt out, do nothing" is not the right answer?
August 28, 2013 12:57 PM Subscribe
What’s the best way to sensitively encourage someone with (potential) mental and financial difficulties to get help? Complex family situation – snowflake inside.
posted by anonymous to human relations (7 answers total)
Apologies in advance for the long narrative, but I’m just trying to tease out all the nuances which may be relevant to the situation.
I have an older sibling (who I’ll call Sib) who I’ve never been very close to – for a long time, we have been geographically separated, and don’t regularly contact each other even with the advent of telephone, email, Skype etc. I have tried reaching out, but Sib isn’t very responsive and any communication ends up being very transient and superficial. Partly, this may be because Sib feels that they shouldn’t burden anyone with their problems; and partly, there is an outward disparity in our levels of “success” (especially financially) and, as the older sibling, Sib may feel unable to meet (cultural) expectations.
Sib is married and has two small children, and has recently taken on the obligation of supporting their parents-in-law (who have no financial resources of their own). Because of the culture we were raised in, this is perceived, very strongly, as the “right thing to do”. Financially, Sib has hinted that this is a very difficult position to be in, although they have a full-time, reasonably paid, job.
By accident, I learnt that Sib has been buying things on an online marketplace, literally every day (compulsively?). In the last year, close to 500 transactions have been made. Based on conversations with other family contacts, this is creating lots of resentment in Sib’s family given their financial and living conditions. This may also be affecting (or even be a symptom of) Sib’s mental health. The front Sib puts up, however, is that nothing is wrong and there is nothing to discuss.
My worry is that this is all piling up and adding stressor after stressor for Sib and that something bad will happen: Sib has had to take lots of time off work recently which may affect the stability of their job; Sib may get into such a level of financial difficulty that they lose their house and cannot support their family; they may get divorced and lose contact with the kids; they may do “something stupid”. I know this is catastrophizing, and I’m trying hard not to do that, but a part of me feels that some of these would result as a logical extension of the path they are on.
Sib has a family (ageing parents and I) who love them and want to help but don’t know how. We have thought about providing financial support, but would only be able to do so in a very limited manner and are not sure that such support would help resolve the underlying problem. My personal view is that Sib is an adult and should be entitled to make their own mistakes and live their own life (our parents may disagree with this). Having said that, we don’t think doing nothing is the right answer either, especially as we would like, if at all possible, to insulate the kids from any fallout and maintain good relations with Sib and family. Most of all, we want Sib and family to be happy and we can see that this is not currently the case. So here are my questions:
1) What’s the best way to help Sib? If you were in Sib’s situation, how would you like to be approached? If you have had to deal with similar issues, how have you done this and has it worked?
2) Are there any concrete things I could do, from a geographic distance which would be welcome / wouldn’t cause resentment?
3) Any other advice?
A throwaway account has been created at email@example.com if you’d like to email instead. Thank you all.