Help with Brother's Commitment
January 10, 2011 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Brother tried to kill himself, I called 911. He has been committed against his will. Need help figuring out how to support him despite his anger towards me.

My brother has always had "issues". He has been in jail for domestic violence, he is a chronic pot smoker, has trouble keeping jobs, is depressed, lives with my mom, is 35 didn't graduate from college and basically a lost soul. He has been depressed/angry for most of his life. Sunday morning he posted on his facebook page "Goodbye, take care, sorry for doing this" and then called me from a bridge telling me he was going to jump off. He hung up, I called 911 and then for the next couple of hours he would call me crying/yelling etc. When he finally came home (I live in a 2 family with my 2 kids and my mom and brother live downstairs) I called 911 and they came and took him to the hospital and committed him. Now he is totally angry, blaming me (texting and calling me to say he hated me and I have ruined his life) and he has also taken me off the list of people who can talk about his care.

I am going back and forth between feeling like I did the right thing to worrying about what retaliation he might take once he gets out. I am wondering what might happen to him in the next 48 hours, if he will be able to check himself out, what he might be offered for services? Has anyone here been through something similar and can help me understand how to be supportive but clearly give him his space? Has anyone been through this either as the person who was committed or the person who had to call 911?
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posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You did the right thing. You did the right thing. You did the right thing.
I can do nothing about the fear --some of it is probably justified and should be listened to-- but you did the right thing.
As for him being less angry at you: Time. One day, provided he gets through this, he will also know that you did the right thing.
posted by Ys at 10:01 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

you did the right thing. it may be the only direct thing you are able to do for him for a while. focus on supporting the people he does let participate in his care until he is at a place to address his anger at you constructively.
posted by supermedusa at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

texting and calling me to say he hated me and I have ruined his life.

In reality, he nearly ruined his life. Were it not for your intercession, that's exactly what would have happened.

Chances are, he's going to continue to be pissed at you for a good while, as he hopefully starts to get himself in better shape. My advice is that you take it on the chin for a while. You know you did the right thing.
posted by Gilbert at 10:05 AM on January 10, 2011

You absolutely did the right thing. Hopefully, he'll come around once he's had the time and treatment he needs.
posted by brand-gnu at 10:12 AM on January 10, 2011

My brother went through something similar. He's much younger, but he's been hospitalized a few times and has a lot of anger about it. I think the important thing is to keep saying that you did it because you were worried about him and because you love him, and support him in whatever way you can. Don't worry too much about what he might do if he gets out; I think out of fear we often exaggerate in our minds what our loved ones might do in situations like these. Just be present for him, and hear him out if and when he comes to you. See if you can find him a therapist with experience in this area (adults with long term depression and/or abuse problems) who might be able to help. A lot of people have experience with therapists but are hesitant to try again because of bad experiences in the past, but it's a matter of trying until you find the right person who both clicks with you and pushes you to do what you need to.
posted by shabaabk at 10:14 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Semi-similar experience regarding 48 hours. You cannot leave if anyone thinks you are in harm of yourself. However, after 48 hours it depends about treatment plans. You may have to sign a contract, they may deem you still a harm to yourself and you are involuntarily committed for a while beyond 48 hours. In this case, you did to the right thing.
posted by stormpooper at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2011

I wouldn't argue with him. Don't try to convince him that what you did was right. You need to show him by your actions that what you did was right. Visit him every day. Be there to support him. Tell him you'll be there when he needs you. Try and be around as much as possible once he's discharged. Don't let it turn into a "you v. him" paradigm. Bring him dinner, bring him movies, bring him as much love and affection as you can. Deflect attempts at pushing you away. You did the right thing. Good luck.
posted by orville sash at 10:21 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

He called you while still in the grips of mental illness. When he gets healthy (assuming he gets healthy), he will probably thank you (possibly not in so many words) for keeping him from killing himself.
posted by me3dia at 10:25 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You absolutely did the right thing. Yes, yes, yes.

Suicide is about control, particularly control over a situation (life) in which control doesn't seem to exist. His thought process right now says that the only thing worse than wanting to die is trying to die and not succeeding. Because, hey, here's another in the long line of things he couldn't do right/couldn't complete. You took that control away from him. (Again, you were completely correct to do so.)

The important thing is that you're not dealing with a logical person -- at least not in the sense that you think things are logical. In addition to being angry about wresting control away from him, he's probably angry that you want him to stay alive because that's what you want, not what he wants. Because you seem to think you know better than he does. Well... that's technically true right now, but that's because he's not in a position to make those kinds of decisions.

Again: what he wants is control. When he's in a better place to recognize his ability to control his life, or his ability to cede control to another person/force, you may be able to resume your relationship in some way. Just recognize that that's what he's looking for and (so far) hasn't found, and see if you can support him in that way.

You did the right thing. You did the right thing. You did the right thing.
posted by Madamina at 10:25 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

As everyone has said, you did the right thing. Now, however, you need to have that internal conversation and ask yourself if you did the right thing. If you end up agreeing with us, then you need to decide what you want to do from here on out. You can now turn your back and consider him ungrateful for your efforts, or you can continue to believe in what you did. If you choose the latter path, know that a lot of what he feels toward you is really an expression of how he feels about himself. He will be antagonistic, angry and - possibly - lash out. You need to accept that this is a common aftermath in the face of perceived self-failure. If you still feel you did the right thing, then put on the armor and deflect his rage, knowing he is not in control of his emotions.

If you have someone you can confide in and who will listen to you without being judgmental, seek some quiet time with that person and let it all out. This will help you through the rough spots.
posted by Old Geezer at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, you definitely did the right thing.

I had to do something similar with a friend who was suicidal. While he resented me at the time, when I ran into him a few years later, he thanked me and we had a good talk.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2011

Sunday morning he posted on his facebook page "Goodbye, take care, sorry for doing this" and then called me from a bridge telling me he was going to jump off.

I am no expert in this type of scenario, but it seems to me that he wanted you to intervene, otherwise, why the call?

Regardless, you did the right thing.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

I know you hurt deeply. Your brother is trying to make you feel guilty. Just imagine, if you will, that he succeeded in his attempt. Then imagine your guilt feeling from that. You really did the only thing you could have done. Try to understand that some things are just beyond your control. You really did the right, and only, thing you could do. Bless you.
posted by JayRwv at 10:36 AM on January 10, 2011

I am sorry this happened to you. You did the right thing. You did the only thing you could do. It was the right thing. It was.

I know you asked for advice on how to handle your brother, but without knowing more details of his specific situation it's difficult to give advice - although I have been through a similar situation. All I can say is: Give your brother time and space to process his feelings.

Let's focus on you for now. As others have mentioned, your brother may very well remain angry with you - but this has little or no bearing on whether or not what you did was right. What were the alternatives? Not intervening is unthinkable. No matter what he may say, no matter what happens, you must know that you were put into an impossible situation with only one correct course of action. Please hold on to that.

Please lean on loved ones and friends over the next few days. Take care of yourself. Best of luck to you.
posted by ladybird at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2011

As others have said, you absolutely did the right thing and you shouldn't feel guilty for a second. You saved your brother's life yesterday--how special is that--and even though he might be a royal PITA to care for, you demonstrated to him that someone out there cares about him and would prefer to live in a world where he doesn't jump off a bridge. That's something darn important, even if he can't show gratitude for it.

You should also consider contacting wherever he is and seeing if you can make an appointment to talk with a social worker or a member of the clinical staff responsible for your brother's care. Good mental health professionals understand that taking care of the family is part of their job and they ought to be able to help you with resources to put your mind at ease and get you through the days ahead. Secondly, while they may not be able to discuss your brother's care with you, they do need some third party validation of what happened and what his life has been like. People in this situation often lie, lie through their teeth, and he might paint a rosy picture to try to get the docs to send him home that simply has no connection with reality. You live in the same house as him and you're the one he called, so you can provide the clinical staff with prospective on what's been going on with him and what kind of support he'll have when he's released. They need to know how your mom is toward all this; will she make sure he gets to therapy and takes his medication? Will she enable him? What will you do/not do? This stuff is important to know what kind of recovery he'll have.

Many best wishes to you and your brother.
posted by zachlipton at 10:50 AM on January 10, 2011

BBB is on the right track. People who really want to kill themselves usually do. It's not that hard.

Your brother didn't want to kill himself; he wanted to manipulate you. The plan kind of backfired, and now he's irate. Does this surprise you when you think about it? Isn't this consistent with some of your history with him?

Deep down I think you know you did the right thing. You don't need us to tell you. What you need is for us to tell you your brother's problems are not your fault. You're not responsible for his failings, and you're not able to fix them.

One more thing: someday your brother might just decide that he really does want to kill himself. If he does, decide now that you're not going to beat yourself up over it. You've done your best, and that's all anyone can ask. Grieve as anyone would, then get on with the lives you can make worthwhile: yours and your kids'.
posted by dinger at 10:52 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

If he hadn't wanted some kind of help, intervention, attention (whateveryouwantocallit) he wouldn't have posted or called or acted out. It's by your grace that you're not all in this situation.

You did the right thing. He's just not in a place now where he's going to do anything but rail and flail for a bit, and you're an easy mark.

If he's angry or retaliates when he comes out, at least he's out of the suicidal mindset, right? Try to view that as a positive. If he'd hurt himself, or your family and you know about it, do what it takes to have him re-committed, as many times as you have to. As long as you're involved in his life and he in yours, and as long as he keeps dragging you in, you just keep doing what you think is best.

But there's a point where you just can't keep someone alive if he really doesn't want to be. I was slightly acquainted with someone who committed suicide last week, and so I've been thinking - if he really wants to do it, he will - no more crying wolf. But hopefully he won't, and even if he keeps trying, hopefully others won't become inured to his need for help, so it won't always be on your shoulders. I don't know about services or options, but what I can say, is that it's the ones who attempt suicide that'll give you no warning that you have to worry about.
posted by peagood at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2011

If you're not seeing a therapist, you really really need to. Too many people forget that the caregivers/protectors need caregiving/protecting too, and that's what the therapists are for. Good luck - -you did not only the right thing, but the only thing you could have done.
posted by sweetkid at 11:05 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

as someone who has been on all sides of that equation (i've been suicidal, i've intervened when friends have tried to commit suicide, and recently a close friend of mine did succeed in committing suicide), i know for SURE that you did the right thing. not just because it's morally right, but because i understand all parts of that dark place and eventually from every angle, prevention is always seen as the right option in the end. just takes longer for some people to see it.

i do know know him as a person or what he needs, but i know for me the best thing for others to do, and what i found to be the most helpful for me to support others who were mad at me, was to keep your distance, but let him know you are there for him at regular intervals. it doesn't necessarily have to be a phone call saying "i'm here for you", although that's good, but maybe a small gift, a meal, a thoughtful action, a facebook message, a message through a friend...sometimes, as angry as you can be at someone, when you really need help, that same person can pop in your head because somewhere in the back of your head you've logged away that they do really care about you, and have made sure you remember it.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

i don't know him as a person**
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 11:44 AM on January 10, 2011

Yeah, mentally ill folks are very good at lying and if they want to check out after 48 hours, they probably can. A good book to read on this subject is I'm Not Sick, I Don't Need Help, it talks a lot about how the mentally ill process their thoughts. What's going to happen to him if he does get out? If he goes to live somewhere else, then offer him whatever support you are comfortable with, such as "I love you" over the phone or whatever. If he's going to live with your mother, then make sure to set healthy, physical boundaries. As devastated and ill as he is, you have the right not to be abused by him.
posted by Melismata at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2011

Often AsKMe pile-ons are not good; but I think you can't hear this enough: You did the right thing. What else could you have done? He called you from a bridge threatening to jump. You did the RIGHT THING. I agree therapy is likely wise.
Remember - even if he is very angry and stays angry, you did the right thing! Peace to you & yours.
posted by pointystick at 12:22 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please seek therapy and/or other support. The situation must have been traumatic for you and the ongoing fallout may be highly stressful as well.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You did the right thing. I know it has been said but it bears repeating.

There is nothing you can really do to make him see that you were doing the best you could for him. Just wait. Also be patient and kind with him. He was / is in a lot of pain.

Good luck to you both.
posted by d4nj450n at 2:21 PM on January 10, 2011

You did the right thing! I've been in the same situation and I work for a mental health agency. Because he has taken you off the list of people the staff can talk to about his care, they can't tell you anything. BUT - you can tell them anything! Just like someone above said, they need to know his history, because he probably isn't being truthful because he just wants to get out. You can call and say you want to give them some information that is pertinent to his care. Most likely, they'll say that they can't even tell you if he's there or not. You can say something along the lines of "I know you can't tell me if (name) is a patient there, but in case he is, I'd like to pass along some information that would be important for you to know."
posted by la petite marie at 3:04 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

He's your brother, right? He's known you his entire life? So when he called you threatening to kill himself, he knew you well enough to know that you would do something, right? He knew that you weren't just going to brush him off, or not believe him, you were going to try to help. He knew that when he called.
posted by kjs4 at 4:12 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a cousin who killed himself. I'd cut off contact with him years earlier, when he was constantly calling and begging for (what I thought was drug) money. I would give anything to have gotten the phone call from him that you got from your brother, even if he hated me for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge he didn't call me or warn anyone in any way.

I would highly recommend that you consider therapy and also contact a group for family members of alcoholics like Al-Anon (you didn't specifically say alcohol, but self-destructiveness is self-destructiveness). Also, NAMI has been very helpful to me as a relative of several people with mental illness.

Best wishes to you and your brother. I hope he can get the help that he needs.
posted by desjardins at 5:08 PM on January 10, 2011

I had something similar happen in my family two years ago, only it was a brother with guns, an ex-girlfriend who constantly made his life hell, and serious depression. Family intervened, got him picked up by the RCMP under the Mental Health Act, and he wasn't able to kill himself as he planned. He hated us all for a good while. Now he's close to us all again, and although we agree not to discuss it unless he brings it up, the whole episode isn't written in our family myth as some dirty secret. Instead we view it as the catalyst that not only saved my brother but got us all involved in his health and wellness, which in turn did a lot to help him see that he was loved and valued by us all.

So yeah, you did the right thing, and this misery you feel will pass. When we were in the throes of it with my brother, we all pulled together and agreed that whoever he was most willing to talk to would be there for him, and the rest of us would wait and support that person. Don't feel that you erred. You didn't.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:48 PM on January 10, 2011

Again, you did the right thing.

And, remember even if he is hateful and mean for now, he's alive to be hateful and mean. You helped him remain that way. You did the right thing.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:31 PM on January 10, 2011

You did the right thing, and Nthing he wanted -needed- you to intervene. (I'm sure he feels like no one else would)

I've been committed against my will. Blame and anger will be thrown even to the most loved people of his life. He's going through a tough time; rock bottom. Help him get through it by being a sibling, a best friend.i
posted by lain at 8:32 PM on January 10, 2011

I am really sorry for all the pain and uncertainty you're going through right now. I know it's hard.

Several years ago, my online friend told me she was going to kill herself and signed off IM. I called her house and she answered but said she didn't want to talk to me and hung up. I called the police in her city and gave them her name and address. They went to her house and committed her.

I didn't hear from her for about a year at which time she yelled and screamed at me. After another year or so we made up and now she and I are very close friends and we've even met in person. She's turned her life around, has stopped doing drugs, stopped cutting herself, and has become a great hardworking mother of 2.

I hope you get a wonderful outcome as well. Right now time may be what you and your brother need.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:09 PM on January 10, 2011

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