Help My Brother
July 29, 2004 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Help save my brother's life. [more inside]

My 19-year-old brother is blowing every chance he gets to do things right. He was a senior in high school last year taking all his classes at the local college through a PSEO program. First semester he got B’s and D’s, second semester he stopped going to class and failed every one. Because he didn’t pass an English class, he didn’t graduate from high school in May. He was given the chance to do an English course through independent study; his work was due today. Our parents asked him if he’d turned it in and he said, “yes,” but when my mom called the teacher she found that nothing had been done all summer.

He attempted suicide in May when our parents found out that he wouldn’t graduate from high school, and I fear he will do it again if pushed too hard about this most recent setback. He is angry and verbally abusive towards my mother. Any time she asks him a question he flies off the handle and screams at her. My parents are incredibly angry and hurt that he lied to them again and doesn’t seem to understand the consequences.

He had been accepted to Iowa State for this fall and is excited to go, but without his high school diploma he can’t go to college. He is brilliant but seems completely unmotivated to do anything but lurk in the basement and play video games. What can be done to help him?
posted by Coffeemate to Human Relations (78 answers total)
sounds like he might be depressed, also sounds like neither you nor your family give a damn about him, only about his successes. he needs a family that doesn't get angry when he fails, and possibly a doctor.

posted by andrew cooke at 11:27 AM on July 29, 2004

Do you have any friends who are older than him, and who have been through what he's going through, that can kind of socially "adopt" him and help guide him through it? That worked for me when I was in high school. I was able to feel a little less alone in my failures, and the cooler, older people who'd made a good life for themselves were an inspiration. In any case, sorry to hear about this situation.
posted by dhoyt at 11:29 AM on July 29, 2004

dhoyt's idea is not bad at all. wasting a year it's not a tragedy, he can get the diploma and go to college in 2005. he probably just needs a good mentor, and he needs to do something else -- anything -- besides playing videogames.

writing code, building stuff with wood or whatever, play music, lift weights, move rocks around the garden, dig holes with a shovel then fill them back up with dirt, whatever, as long as he does something to shake him off of his torpor

seeing somebody about possible depression for treatment is an idea, too (although I 'm not a big fan of meds, I'm not American so please disregard if this bothers you).

I think that with love, mentoring, and luck all should go well. just don't obsess about losing a year, there's nothing that you can't fix at this point
posted by matteo at 11:36 AM on July 29, 2004

what andrew cooke said.
posted by quonsar at 11:37 AM on July 29, 2004

I would worry that he is depressed or even worse. Has he seen a psychiatrist or anything like that? They may be able to help him, at least somewhat.

I am surprised that the parents let the independent study thing go until the very end without checking up on the kid. If my kid had failed out of school, you can bet I would be on her ass *every damn day* about doing her work for her independent study second (last?) chance.

Also I might ask him what he wants out of life? He doesn't seem to want the path his parents want for him, so what does he want?
posted by beth at 11:39 AM on July 29, 2004

First, get over the idea that he's not doing things "right". I dropped out of high school at 16 and didn't do anything at all for the next two years, but my mom accepted it and supported me. Now I'm 19 and just finished my first year of college with a 3.7 gpa.

The only way he's going to improve his situation is with unconditional love and support from his family. Worrying because he's not following the normal path instead of worrying about HIM is a big problem. Maybe family counseling would be a good idea.
posted by evilbeck at 11:44 AM on July 29, 2004

If simply meeting deadlines and handing in work is his problem, then obviously someone needs to get involved in his schoolwork, help him with it, set milestones for him, check in with him every day, and keep him on track. You can't just ask him if he turned it in and believe him when he says "yes."

Someone needs to be his "manager" for a little while. This doesn't have to take on an authoritarian tone, either. It should take the form of mentoring, tutoring, guiding, and most of all: helping.

Also, the wording of this question is asinine. His life is his own. Just because his grades suck doesn't mean his life is in jeopardy. You can help him by toning down the disapproval, for one thing.
posted by scarabic at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2004

Response by poster: andrew cooke - The anger we are feeling is born of the frustration of seeing him waste the opportunities he has to do good things for himself. We love him dearly and want him to be happy, but at the same time we know that he can't live in our parents' basement playing video games the rest of his life. I do appreciate your comments from someone outside the situation, however much they may sting.

He has been ready to go away to school for a long time, but he is destroying every chance he has to make it happen.

Is it a teenaged boy "thing" to want something very badly and sabotage every chance you have to achieve it?
posted by Coffeemate at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2004

Response by poster: My concern about saving his life is literal - I fear he will kill himself if we don't handle this correctly. He just gets so angry whenever we try to understand him that I fear the slightest thing could send him over the edge.

My own thoughts include involving other people he can talk to - the family pastor he's very close to, a psychiatrist, anyone. He needs to talk. He has been lying to everyone in his life since January, and he needs to find someone he can tell the truth to.
posted by Coffeemate at 11:50 AM on July 29, 2004

I'll echo those who suggest depression may be the cause. IANAP--and even if I were, I couldn't make a diagnosis based solely on this--but I'd guess it's a fairly good likelihood, especially given the suicide attempt. (I vaguely recall reading somewhere that 80% of people who attempt suicide are clinically depressed.) Get him to a psychiatrist.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:52 AM on July 29, 2004

Sounds very much like depression to me. Other forms of serious mental health problems can also kick in around 18 or so. It sounds as if he's isolating himself, so it's probably hard for anyone in your family to know why he's doing so poorly.

He might be despairing, he might be convinced that people are making fun of him, he might have a learning disability that makes it hard for him to comprehend what's going on, he may be hearing voices, he might have a medical condition, he might be drinking or using other substances...who knows? Whatever the case, he's (and your family as well) are probably really scared that he's losing control of his life.

It's *very* difficult on everyone when a family member starts to act in incomprehensible ways. But the worst thing anyone can do is ignore it, and hope it'll go away by itself. It might... but then again, it might be something that really needs treatment.

I'd strongly recommend you take him to a therapist of some kind and have him evaluated. A psychiatrist can help with meds, if needed - but I'd also recommend an evaluation by a therpist, say a psychologist, social worker, or someone else who's experienced with mental disorders. Do it sooner, rather than later, I'd say. And hang in there! He might not make it easy for you to help him.
posted by jasper411 at 11:59 AM on July 29, 2004

He has been ready to go away to school for a long time, but he is destroying every chance he has to make it happen.

No he isn't. He's 19. If he doesn't go to school in the fall, it's not the end of the world. Some people take longer to get their shit together--especially if they're depressed.

I don't understand why the school thing is so central a concern right now. It seems to me that you should all be focused on his mental health above all things.

Even if he some how makes it to school, he's obviously in no condition to be there. Forget college right now. It isn't going to happen. Get him to a doctor ASAP.
posted by jpoulos at 12:02 PM on July 29, 2004

Is it a teenaged boy "thing" to want something very badly and sabotage every chance you have to achieve it?

I don't know about that, but I know this can happen with people who are mentally ill.

Sometimes when someone is depressed the stress of school on top of it is just too much to take, and they just want to withdraw from everything for awhile.

Is he on any medication? Does he have continuing psychiatric care?
posted by beth at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2004

Also: you seem to assume he wants to go to college right now. He may not even want that.
posted by beth at 12:04 PM on July 29, 2004

First off, try to get him professional help, but


There's only so much you can do for him, but trying to save the life of a suicidal, depressed person is enough to send you into a tailspin of your own. I know this firsthand, not to mention any psychologist worth their salt will tell you the same thing.

There's only so much you can do.

What about a quick GED to get him into college? If I'd known how easy that (and a good ACT score) is, I would have done it myself and walked out of high school.

But beyond the college thing, he obviously has deeper problems that he really needs to sort out. It might be a very bad time for him to go to college anyway.

Depression + first year college stress can be a very bad thing. Preview/What jpoulos said.

If he's bright and gets his GED he'll do fine, especially with a State school, whenever he's ready.

Keep us posted, eh? And talk to people yourself, too, as you go through this. Don't shoulder it all.
posted by Shane at 12:05 PM on July 29, 2004

If you are concerned about another suicide attempt, he needs professional attention immediately. Stop fixating on grades, he's got bigger concerns to deal with right now, specifically his mental well-being-- that's what he's trying to tell you by ignoring school.
posted by samh23 at 12:08 PM on July 29, 2004

Does he have a ton of pressure and expectations on him to go to college? Sounds like maybe he needs to realize his worth (and self-worth) as a person regardless of "success", maybe, too.
posted by Shane at 12:10 PM on July 29, 2004

Your brother sounds a lot like me when I was a teenager, only I dropped out of school when I was 15 and had a pretty bad drug habit on top of the clinical depression. Really, you all should just let him live his life the way he wants to. If your parents want him to get a job, either kick him out or make him pay rent. Don't force him to go to school if he doesn't want to, he might just end up dropping out, making him feel like even more of a failure. In a year or two, if left alone, he'll probably say "hey, I think it's time I go to college" if that's what he thinks his life needs. He's an adult now, after all.

Just back off for a year or two, things'll work out.
posted by cmonkey at 12:13 PM on July 29, 2004

I second possible GED - a change of scene (first year of college) may actually be good for him. Knowing that he's trusted enough to be sent off to school alone may be good for him too.

Also, it does not sound just like depression to me - it sounds like severe anxiety, something I am familiar with. I barely graduated high school, ending up at a "cooperational" high school part time with adults getting their GEDs so that I could score enough credits to graduate with my class. I finished the last of my credit work one hour before the graduation ceremony was to take place, and had nightmares about it for years afterward.

I was 21 when I was diagnosed with anxiety, and 23 before I believed it. He needs a therapist or a good family friend to vent to, as well as a consultation with a doctor (and after a known suicide attempt, I imagine he has at least one of these things?).
posted by annathea at 12:14 PM on July 29, 2004

I'll second the anxiety along with depression, too. I should have taken time off before college, and I blew my first couple years for similar reasons.

Can you and your folks tell him to take time off, don't worry about college because his health is more important? He can always go to college later, no harm done by taking time off.

Sorry if I'm spewing, but this brings back memories of friends, especially one, self-destructing right before college, not to mention my own ordeals.
posted by Shane at 12:18 PM on July 29, 2004

Most often the family doesn't really listen to the person in question in situations like this.

Forget about absolutely everything that you or your parents think matters in life.

Ask him what he wants.

He's not ready to go to college. A person who is ready to go to college does the steps necessary to get there. He isn't doing those steps, hence he's not ready.

Maybe he really doesn't want to go.

There are a multitude of possible things going on with him, including drug abuse, questioning sexuality, uncertainty of future, etc.

Has he lead a sheltered life, in which the only possible futures presented to him are a narrow range of the actual possibilities? I.e., you and your parents are corporate/professional/etc., and he's always been told that's the path to success, and artistic subsistence farmers, truck-driving philosophers, and other out-of-mainstream options aren't realistic?

Also, reflecting on that time of life for me (which was startlingly similarto what youv'e described, and very terribly horrible for me for a couple of years) - - the kid might not even know what's wrong with himself. He's bored but doesn't know why. He's not interested in school, but doesn't know why.

If there's nothing actually life-threatening in his behavior right now, I think the best thing for him would be to get out of town, away from family, see some of the country (or even the world), and support himself for a while.

Most college admissions can be deferred for a year, scholarships intact.
posted by yesster at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2004

Is it a teenaged boy "thing" to want something very badly and sabotage every chance you have to achieve it?
Please try and listen to your language. Would you like it if family members discussed you with these kinds of words? These words sound condemning ("sabotage") and patronizing ("is it a teenaged boy "thing"?")

Let him get his G.E.D. and decide for himself when/if to go to college. Even if he never goes to college, it's not the end of the world. If he does, bully for him!

Either way, it sounds to me like the family needs to back way off.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2004

Just say no to drugs.

Drugs => depression => drugs => etc.

Break the chain.
posted by eas98 at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2004

Please get him to a shrink.

It is possible he could be bipolar, it is possible he is on drugs, but what is undoubtedly true is that he is in no shape to think about college now. The anger itself could be and probably is a symptom (I speak from personal experience.) You are very right to be worried about his life in any case.

My own daughter is taking a year off after high school (she may take a few courses at the community college, it depends) so that isn't the end of the world.
posted by konolia at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2004

From a practical perspective, it might benefit everyone involved to look into deferring his admission for a year. He can always go elsewhere or not go at all, but at least that countdown is off the table for a while.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:29 PM on July 29, 2004

This is a great thread. Tons of wisdom there. If I'd heard these things, and I'd believed them, when I was about to go off to college, I wouldn't be sitting bored and unhappy in a crappy office job now thinking of finally making the change to what I really want to do.
posted by Shane at 12:30 PM on July 29, 2004

eas98, if you mean antidepressants, you are full of crap. I am an unmedicated bipolar, I am depressed as crap even tho I exercise and do everything else I can to fight it, and when I could afford the drugs they worked.

Depression is hell, and whatever works, do it.
posted by konolia at 12:31 PM on July 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One other thought--this is a very typical age where, if you're not sure how to define yourself, you do it in the most obvious way, by just rejecting the definitions that are being thrust on you. In all honesty (and in my experience) your description sound like it's also coupled with something a lot more serious, like real depression or drug abuse, but external pressures can really amplify the problems for kids.

When you're depressed, you very often test the "bottom boundary" of people's tolerance--your parents tell you over and over again that they love you unconditionally, but when they seem to pull their affection back because you screwed up, you're driven to test just how much they really do love you, by screwing up as much as possible. While the concerns you've expressed about his future are all totally legitimate, if part of him has come to feel that his acceptance is contingent on meeting those expectations, it's not hard to see how someone who's already in a tough spot might lash out the way your brother has.

One of the first steps I would take is working hard with your parents on how they can still express their love and support for him, and especially on re-framing their expectations of what's best for him right now. I know nothing about you personally, of course, but at least as a parallel, I taught for quite a while at a prep school that had a very high Asian population, and it was very, very hard for parents raised in that culture to accept that the traditional route of racing up the academic ladder isn't right for a kid. Ironically, when the kid is very bright, it actually makes it even harder. The parents could really exacerbate a kid's problems, all the while believing, right down to the core, that they were just staying focused on what's important.

The first thing that I think your parents need to accept, and make very clear to your brother, is that is not--repeat, not--the end of the world if your brother puts off college for a year or two. There are many, many bright, successful people who have built great lives for themselves by either postponing college, or leaving before they finished, or never going at all. If your family can really accept that premise, and make it clear to your brother, that might really help ease off on the emotional pressure-cooker.

That being said, though, it really doesn't sound like that's all there is going on. Do what you can to make him feel love and accepted (even when he throws it back in your face, which he probably will) but it seems very likely that he's either suffering some kind of issue like depression or anxiety, or has got something else going on. Putting off college isn't going to fix that, and may even give that root cause a chance to get worse. Get him talking to someone.
posted by LairBob at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2004

actually, there are very few crazy people. in almost every instance, people act rationally, to protect themselves. you simply may not understand how life is occurring for that person, and therefore, the behavior appears insane.

a person who hallucinates death-dealing demons clawing at his skin may suddenly scream and bolt for no apparent reason, but screaming and bolting from perceived danger is completely rational behavior.

a perfect example is your insistence that "he's been ready to go to school". anyone can see he isn't. people who are ready to go to school, go to school.

people in the grip of fear/anxiety/pain do everything possible to avoid increasing the discomfort. your brother is in the grip of fear/anxiety/pain. fuck school. get him help.
posted by quonsar at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2004

IANA-Psychiatrist, but:

I agree it sounds like depression (which I have experience with), and one of the things that may be troubling him are the goals that have been set (either by him or for him, it doesn't matter).

To set goals and not to achieve them weighs on a depressive's mind; it makes them feel like they let themselves and everyone down, and it's easy to think "how valuable can I be if I keep doing that?"

To try and talk to them about it (specific failures), about the "why"s of it, can make it worse because often a depressive doesn't have a reason for it (which worsens the depression). If you identify depression, the reasons don't matter as much as pulling them out of it. Then discuss the reasons with a therapist.

My suggestion would be to say, "Look, it doesn't really matter if you graduate now, you can do it later. Plus, we can call the college and see if they will defer your entry. If they don't, no big deal, you can reapply later."

That may take a load off for him. If it does, ask him to think about what he would like to do. It doesn't have to be a long-term goal, any structured timekiller would be good for him. A job can be valuable -- something with a concrete reward (instead of 'good grades for a good education for a good future' type goals).

My immediate suggestion is to look into the restaurant industry -- not Burger King -- real restaurants. Because of the hours and the nature of the work, the food biz comes with a unique and usually very cool social circle that has been very valuable to me in the past.

My second suggestion is find him an internship somewhere -- perhaps with someone he knows (and that you know he respects/likes). A caveat here -- set him up for success. Manual labor (like building a house or landscaping) isn't intellectually stimulating, but it's also easy to excel at it, which can make anyone feel good.

If you get the sense he wants/needs a challenge, maybe needs to get away, maybe he'd like to go to Alaska to work on fishing boats. A bit dangerous, but highly challenging, away from home, no education required.
posted by o2b at 12:45 PM on July 29, 2004

Great comments, yesster and LairBob and just about everyone else.

People are nailing this, Coffeemate. Listen.
posted by Shane at 12:45 PM on July 29, 2004

He just gets so angry whenever we try to understand him...

Are you listening to him and genuinely trying to understand him, or are you simply trying to hear what you think he "should" be saying? Please don't take offense - I'm not insinuating anything (and seriously, i've never met any of you, so wtf do i know), but sometimes it's really tough to perceive an alternative perspective. I imagine that's true for both your brother and your family right now.

Try not to make everything a big deal. It may be a life or death situation literally, but treating matters as such are only going to push him away. He probably doesn't want to feel all the attention, and moreover, the additional focus might terrify him even more.

It seems like your brother and you[r family] have damaged relations between each other a bit. Patching up and reestablishing that connection should be the number one priority before you begin to move on to "fixing" other things. I think acceptance, support, and understanding are the best things you could provide right now. Trying to provide direction, spur action, or communicate expectations of him, though potentially helpful down the line, aren't what your family and he need right now.

[disclaimer: my comments are not based on professional expertise or anything legitimate, so heed at your own risk. Don't sue me. I have nothing to sue for anyway.]
posted by Hankins at 12:49 PM on July 29, 2004

Drugs => depression => drugs => etc.

I dunno, drugs (I'm talking street drugs, not the crap they shove down your throat in the psych ward) helped me deal with my depression quite well. The side effects sucked, but they were effective.

I agree that SSRIs for depressed people are a terrible idea, though.
posted by cmonkey at 12:57 PM on July 29, 2004

One of the very few regrets I have is not taking time away from school when I needed it. I was in a position similar to your brother's and instead of taking the time I needed to get my shit together, I ended up doing badly in classes, which only enhanced how horrible I was feeling. I'll go with everyone else and say if he doesn't want to go to school right now, then maybe he shouldn't.

Taking time to figure out what you need to be happy is invaluable. I'm currently coming to the end of my "year off," and I can't even express how much more focused, ready to do well in school and generally happier I am. (This isn't to say taking a year with no additional self-work will help him. Therapy, volunteering, internship, etc., -- whatever he needs, he should take advantage of.)
posted by Zosia Blue at 12:57 PM on July 29, 2004

I agree with Shane - lots of wisdom here.

Looking over the thread, it looks like people are responding to different part's of coffeemate's story. Some are focusing in on the school-and-parental-expectations part.

I, as a psychologist, am focusing in on the suicide attempt, social isolation, and hostility part. I hear these things, and my "this person needs an evaluation" alarm goes off. If you family doesn't know anyone they can refer him to, you guys got the Mayo Clinic up there. If, after a conversation with a professional, the word is that your brother is feeling too much pressure and you should back off, well then, no harm done.

But the risks of backing off without an evaluation are great. I have worked with families who decided to back off, or used some kind of "tough love" thing, and you can imagine how they feel after their loved one went ahead and killed himself or someone else.

For everyone's peace of mind and your brother's well being, I'd urge you to just try some kind of mental health evaluation.
posted by jasper411 at 1:06 PM on July 29, 2004

andrew cooke may have put it rather harshly, but yeah, what he said.

Absolutely you must find someone qualified for your brother to work with.

Dunno about your family, but in my family, love was/is expressed by having high aspirations for others, giving them a tone of advice, and generally trying to ensure the "best" for a person - without necessarily thinking about what that person wants in life. The more my parents loved me in this fashion, the more smothered and powerless I felt. (They would be horrified to read their best intentions described in this way, but that's how it seemed when I was 16). When you're 19 you are unlikely to have the mental equipment to resist these pressures in a reasonable way, hence the dramatic all-or-nothing gestures you see from your bro.

I made it as far as university, and spent my first year unable to get out of bed except to go drinking with a bunch of people I didn't like very much. Luckily my attempts at self harm did not extend as far as your brothers'.

Lastly, if someone has attempted suicide, forget college, forget grades, forget being successful. There are more important issues at hand.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:08 PM on July 29, 2004

o2b and Zosia Blue are completely on the mark, as is most everyone else. Setting the obvious depression/bipolarity issue aside, I think that waiting for/taking time off from school is a brilliant idea. Obviously not if he's gonna play video games all day, but: if I had taken a year or two off between high school and college, gotten a job of some kind and lived on my own, I am certain that I would have handled and appreciated school much better. Not that you probably could have persuaded me of it at the time, of course.

Anyway, yeah, there's a lot of other stuff that should be looked at before the college thing.
posted by mookieproof at 1:13 PM on July 29, 2004

Wow, this is exactly what my 18 year-old brother is going through right now. His irrational behavior is tearing my family apart and my mother is at the point of kicking him out of the house. I really hope it doesn't come to that; I think it would do him more harm than good.

The only thing he seems to enjoy (other than his XBox) is his summer job as a special-needs counselor. He refuses to talk rationally to anyone, but he treats his 'kids' like gold. I think their absolute acceptance of him, no matter who or what he is, helps him deal with everyday issues.

I am going to forward this thread to my mother in hopes she can step back and try to understand he has a problem, not laziness. Thanks, everyone.
posted by dual_action at 1:13 PM on July 29, 2004

PS: I turned out all right. As did most people posting above, I see.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:20 PM on July 29, 2004

I made it as far as university, and spent my first year unable to get out of bed except to go drinking with a bunch of people I didn't like very much.

Man, you don't know how many of my incredibly intelligent friends came from that background, and did the exact same thing as you in your first year.

This modern life we're talking about here, especially America. We can probably all see a little of ourselves here.
posted by Shane at 1:22 PM on July 29, 2004

(Me, I stayed in bed most of my third year, heh heh.)
posted by Shane at 1:24 PM on July 29, 2004

Response by poster: I love you guys!

I think I really needed to see another perspective on what's happening, unclouded by my own experiences.

I just feel so much better knowing that all of you turned out alright. Thank you all!
posted by Coffeemate at 1:27 PM on July 29, 2004

Also, yeah - when I decided to take a year off, I had just failed my entire senior year of college. If he can take the time now at 19, before he jumps into anything new, he might save himself a lot of grief later on. It's been extremely difficult work getting back on track, but like I said earlier, I'm miles from where I first began.

Also, as everyone else has said, some type of therapy sounds like an absolute must for your brother. If you get to a point where you think you'll need a name of someone, I can suggest my therapist. (I live in Minneapolis.) It wouldn't be overdramatizing to say he pretty much saved my life.

Good luck. And please let us know how this turns out.
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2004

I agree that SSRIs for depressed people are a terrible idea, though.

I'd let a qualified psychiatric professional make that decision. When you're depressed, you can get buried under a lot of shit that needs to be dealt with, but you can't deal with it because you're depressed, and the fact that you're not dealing with it just makes you more depressed. Take the depression away pharmaceutically and the problems become much more manageable. Then you solve them and you stop needing the medication. It sounds like your brother's depression might not be situational, but then again, it could be. This is why he needs to go to a doctor.

The biggiest problem with telling him he should have his head examined is that it implies that there's something wrong with him, or that he's too weak to solve the problems himself, and he may be in denial about that and thus reject the suggestion. If you can't see a solution to your problem, the obvious course of action is not to admit you have one. Then you don't need to worry that it can't be solved.

It may help him to know that lots of people have similar problems and that there is no stigma in getting help, whatever that entails. Fortunately, there are plenty of places online to find stories of regular people who have changed their lives through therapy and medication. Reading these may help him accept that he has a problem and give him hope for solving it.
posted by kindall at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2004

Depression + first year college stress can be a very bad thing

That's me! I earned a 1.1 GPA my freshman year, pre-med at UNC. I then came home, went to community college for a year, then got in to a different, much smaller college, in a major I really liked. With summer school, I got out in 4 years. I had my PhD before I was 30.

MrsMoonPie dropped out of high school at 16 (depression there, too), worked for a year or so, then got her GED. Community college led to state university led to grad school led to a Master's by 26 or so.

It can all work out. My parents freaked when I flunked out, but I knew I'd get it back together. They yelled and stomped, but I knew what I needed to do. MrsMoonPie's parents just pretty much ignored her, but she turned out fine, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2004

It may help him to know that lots of people have similar problems and that there is no stigma in getting help...

Very true, stigma sucks, especially in this day and age. The modern world is a screwed up place. People are animals, but we're expected to perform like machines. Very few people end up happy without a little help along the way (myself included).

Kids all go through this, some to a more extreme degree than others. Everybody wants to know they're loved for who they are, not what they do. And everyone is a little of that elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, too -- the one who wants to be a dentist instead of a toymaker.

Sappy but true.
posted by Shane at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2004

If you actually fear he will kill himself, school simply isn't relevant anymore. Trying to deal with school now is applying a band-aid to a severed limb.

He needs to talk to a psychogist and/or psychiatrist. Following what kindall said, though, the core is not that he's broken and needs fixing. The problem is that he feels awful and doesn't need to; that he can feel better.

Following what Shane said, look out for yourself. You can only do so much, and for the most part this doesn't have anything to do with you.

Still, though, it wouldn't hurt for you and the rest of your family to talk to a psychologist too, together or individually -- preferably one who consults with your brother's -- so you have a safe place to discuss how you're feeling about all this mess, so you can talk about what depression (or bipolar disorder, or, God forbid, schizophrenia, or whatever) is with an expert, to talk about ways to interact with your brother that help to keep him from killing himself, and so on.

You want to take the question I'm about to quote and go spend an hour a week for a few weeks talking to an expert about this. Doing so doesn't mean that you're ill or that you have a problem that needs solving. It's just a way to consult experts about how to deal with your brother's problem that's affecting your life, and a way to find ways to help him out of this (or at least get out of his way). It's a way to have a more accurate understanding of what he's going through, whatever that turns out to be.

Is it a teenaged boy "thing" to want something very badly and sabotage every chance you have to achieve it?

It's a depressed thing to want something badly, but know all the way down to every cell in your marrow that you're far too shitty to deserve anything that good, which can lead to direct or indirect sabotaging.

Depression also saps energy, making it near-impossible to get things done.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:53 PM on July 29, 2004

Be careful about taking the year off too casually. I agree with what everyone else has to say, but it's not easy going back to school. If I have any advice it's to have some kind of plan besides just taking a year off. Every single person in high school who wanted to take a year off to get their "life together" or to get money or whatever has not and does not have plans to return to college. Even having him take a few credit hours at the community college (after he gets the whole high school diploma thing worked out) is better than none. He's in the game but doesn't feel burdened. It's a lot easier to feel in control of something when it's obtainable, and doing well with one or two classes at a community college is very obtainable compared to taking a full load away at a state college. You might also find that once he gets away from his peers, he doesn't feel the pressure to keep up with them.

One thing I personally hate is when family gets all uptight about things like this. Nothing made me more insular then when my parents would go, "You think this is just goin to go away?" or something similar. That really makes it seem that the only option is to sit around and do nothing. I'm positive right now he feels powerless to control his situation and sees any attempts to change his current state as futile.

Give him breathing room. Treat what could be depression. Good will follow, as a normal functioning human being is not content with doing nothing.
posted by geoff. at 1:53 PM on July 29, 2004

I think the tough part about "going back" to college is that, by the time you do it, you're probably supporting yourself too. But that's also the good part: if you're supporting yourself, you've learned some responsibility, and you've learned that it's in your best interest to finish the degree (and that's the best reason to do it). Your motivation has changed and is more practical. It's rare that a high school kid really knows why s/he should get a degree, other than that the folks have been telling him/her that s/he has to, for as long as s/he can remember.

I went back when I was ready and have kept up a shade under a 4.0 since. When I was ready being the key words.
posted by Shane at 2:12 PM on July 29, 2004

Anti-depressant meds work really well for a lot of people (not everybody). See a doctor for a physical and get a good referral for screening for appropriate treatment. Suicidal people should be especially careful/monitored when beginning antidepressant therapy, as they may get the "energy to act" back before the "I fell better maybe I don't want to die."

Your brother has made it clear that he's not going to finish the HS diploma, and that college isn't going to happen right now. Whether it happens at all is up to him. Get some family therapy so everybody can deal with their own level of freaking out over him. If he's interested in talking to you, see if you can help him figure out something he'd like to do. Hike the Appalachian Trail, find a job, be a surf/ski bum for a year or 5, etc. My parents absolutely demanded that I go right to college, and I wish I'd done more adventuring.

You obviously consider him at high risk for suicide. Read this, which is one of the best things I've ever read.

Maybe your brother would like to read this thread.
posted by theora55 at 3:30 PM on July 29, 2004

Everybody wants to know they're loved for who they are, not what they do.

And this is sad, because in reality, they are the same thing. What you do is the external manifestation of who you are that others can love.
posted by kindall at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2004

kindall, i think most people define "what you do" narrowly as your career, hobbies etc, and being a supportive friend, interesting conversationalist etc as "what you are".
posted by lbergstr at 4:08 PM on July 29, 2004

Why not lurk in the basement and play videogames with him once in a while? You may both enjoy it, and showing an interest in his hobby is hardly going to hurt.
posted by toby\flat2 at 4:11 PM on July 29, 2004

It's a lot easier to feel in control of something when it's obtainable, and doing well with one or two classes at a community college is very obtainable compared to taking a full load away at a state college.

One of the reasons I did so terribly at a large state college in a BS program is that, at orientation, I was told that it would probably take me five years to graduate. I couldn't imagine, at that point in my life, doing anything for five years, or (more importantly) envision who I'd be in five years -- or who I wanted to be. This was one of the factors that contributed to my leaving after the first year. And this was without the additional stress of living away from home (I was a commuter). Point is, college can be scary. You can be very eager to leave home, yet terrified of where you're going. This leads to much conflict, which, if you are unable to resolve it, can lead to depression.

(Another big factor was that, before college, I had never encountered a subject I had to study, and so had never learned how. I was completely at a loss as to what to do after being completely bamboozled by a test for the first time after being certain I knew the material. I put off dealing with it, keeping up a cheerful front while becoming increasingly worried about it, generating much stress and depression, until eventually things came to a head and I ended up leaving the school. It occurred to me that your brother's behavior in his senior year of high school sounds a lot like mine in my freshman year of college. He may be reaching the limit of his natural competency and this problem will only be worse in college. This might bear investigation.)

Not going to college is not a disaster by any means, however. Even if he decides to take a year off and that year never really ends, he can still have a successful, happy life on his own terms. He should know this, and know that there are many ways to succeed in life.
posted by kindall at 4:12 PM on July 29, 2004

I'm with beth and others here (especially geoff's comment above)...what does he want? a year off is fine, and a GED is fine too. maybe part-time work and travelling and GED is the answer for him pre-college.

What makes him happy generally that's not doing it anymore? What's been on his mind? Is he afraid of college? of failing? of not meeting the family's expectations? Are there love problems? lack of love problems? does he still hang with his friends? What are they doing with themselves?

His life is fine--i'd be worried if he wasn't touchy as a teen. We all have to do what we want to and what makes us happy, and not what we're expected to. Maybe that's all it is, and he's trying to decide what he really wants. Haven't you been there?
posted by amberglow at 4:23 PM on July 29, 2004

"The anger we are feeling is born of the frustration of seeing him waste the opportunities he has to do good things for himself.... Is it a teenaged boy "thing" to want something very badly and sabotage every chance you have to achieve it?"

Please don't take what I'm about to say personally. I am sincerely trying to help: Have you considered the possibility that he is responding -- in the melodramatic way common to adolescents -- to the deeply fucked-up attitude that leads people around him to make statements like these?

As someone who similarly pissed away a lot of his potential at that age, I can think of few things that were more painful and difficult to deal with than patronizing tut-tutting from family. Perhaps instead of reminding him that he's a fuckup -- further depressing him -- and cramming your assumptions about what his life should be like down his throat, you and your family can try to find out what he wants to be doing now and in the future, and help him achieve those things.

May you all find a way through these dangerous waters.
posted by majick at 4:26 PM on July 29, 2004

i_am_joes_spleen: Dunno about your family, but in my family, love was/is expressed by having high aspirations for others, giving them a tone of advice, and generally trying to ensure the "best" for a person - without necessarily thinking about what that person wants in life. The more my parents loved me in this fashion, the more smothered and powerless I felt.

Oh my god. This was my upbringing in a nutshell, so much so that I made myself literally sick with anxiety the first time I got a "C" in 9th grade and thought I might be disowned when I didn't get into Harvard a few years later. These standards of "success" might be a more extreme example than what I'm hearing going on your family/situation, Coffeemate, but I think there's still a basic parallel.

It literally took me two decades of depression and anxiety (starting around the age of 11 or 12) to believe that I knew better than my family as to what was best for me; likewise, I would suggest that you need to let go of the assumption that you and your folks know what's best for your brother, and open yourself to the idea that he knows better than all of you who he is and what he wants to do. And even if he can't articulate those things now -- even if he, himself, has no idea who he is and what he wants -- it's your job to support him in becoming the expert in creating his own life. He needs to know he has your unconditional love no matter what choices he makes.

And oh yes, a professional evaluation for depression, anxiety, etc. sounds absolutely necessary.

Good luck to all of you.
posted by scody at 5:10 PM on July 29, 2004

My freakout was in second year. I was depressed and anxious going into university straight out of high school, and had a serious suicide attempt in first year that my family still doesn't know about. Anyway, I flunked out of school, and spent the next three or so years smoking pot, playing on the computer, failing various classes, and being riddled with fear and anger about my life. My parents responded the same way it sounds like yours have.

It just took me longer than some people to figure out what I wanted to do, and more importantly what I didn't want to do. I realized that school made me miserable while computers and writing made me happy, and so I stopped trying to be a student, started working, and moved a healthy distance away from my family (who I love, but probably shouldn't live next to). As it turns out I became a pretty successful, happy person. They were shocked -- shocked! -- when I pulled myself out of my slump, but it wasn't something I could do until I was good and ready for it.

A suicide attempt is a serious thing, and your brother should probably talk to a mental health professional. Not getting into college right away and playing video games all day? As you can see from people's stories, in most cases this too shall pass.
posted by jess at 5:13 PM on July 29, 2004

The above comments pretty well cover some of what I would suggest, like seeking therapy, but I thought I'd pitch in a little story from my life of similar woes:

I met a guy in college who was paying his way (not a cheap school) and was quite smart. We were both freshmen and got along nicely. He wasn't really a party all the time kind of guy, but over the course of the year his drinking and dope smoking increased until he just stopped going to class and spent his days sleeping or getting stoned. His second semester grades peaked at C and he had an F or two, so he wisely decided to drop out rather than continue throwing money away. He moved back to his parents house and got a job delivering package. He spent about two years at it until he got a back injury on the job. No longer able to do that job, but much wiser for the experience, he enrolled at a local school, got his diploma and is now teaching in high school.

The moral is that we sometimes look at people in a particular state and assume that it will never change. In this guys case, that dropping out of college meant the end of his life. I've been in spots myself where it is difficult to imagine things getting better, but what I have learned is that they always do if you work to make it happen. But you can't always rush it.

So don't give up on your brother. The suicide stuff is very serious and drug abuse (as opposed to use) can be dangerous. But with some work and motivation he can get back on track and though it may be a different track than the one you have walked, though it may be slower moving towards its end, be there to help along the way and he will thank you later.
posted by shotsy at 5:30 PM on July 29, 2004

One of the things I regret now is that on some points, my parents have been proved correct, and I was wrong. However, in my blind haste to strike out on my own, I reflexively rejected all they suggested, good and bad. Once over the depression hump, some help in sorting out ones own values in life would be a good idea - I wish I'd had a favourite uncle-type figure to confide in.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:49 PM on July 29, 2004

There is a lot of good advice here. I feel like I've been tangled up in a situation similar to your brother's for the past few years-- there are a few tangible tasks that I still need to complete in order to earn my college degree (i.e. write a paper). My family has tried bribing me with money and a car if I finish. They've tried screaming at me that I've disgraced the family and wasted thousands of their hard earned dollars. I want to finish and I feel horrendous about not having done it yet, despite many deals and promises to complete the work. At this point I don't know if I panicked at the prospect of entering a new stage of life I don't feel ready for, or if I'm just undisciplined or what, but I can tell you this: the harder my parents pressured me, guilt-tripped me, buttered me up, etc. the more difficult it became for me to even think about doing that outstanding schoolwork.
Ultimately, your brother will realize that not making a decision is a decision in itself. He knew that if he didn't finish that independent study that he wouldn't be able to start college. As much as he says he wants to start college, his actions speak louder than his words here.

He can get a job and work and remember what it feels like to excel at something. If I were you, I would just tell him that you want him to be happy and live his life, whatever path he choses to take. Sure, right now he's a fuck-up, but just trust that he's a high level fuck-up like all those that have chimed in above (and like me, I can only hope), and he'll grow up little by little and eventually meander his way into leading a good, successful life.
posted by bonheur at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2004

Road Trip. Obviously not a long term solution. Don't go if you're seeking immediate medical/psychiatric intervention. Don't take your parents. Take your bro, and get the fuck out of dodge for 2 weeks.

Take a tent. Take a cell phone. Take an atlas. Go to Southern Utah! Go to Big Sur!Hell, go to 6 flags (or whatever they call it these days). Uh, I'd avoid Tiajuana, but that's just me.

Road Trip has lots of advantages:
* You'll know where he is and what he's doing almost all the time.
* Ain't no video games on a road trip.
* You've got a lot of time to talk.
* If you're not talking, you're probably getting ready to talk.

Road Trip has disadvantages too (like, you maybe have a job and stuff), but on the whole I think a break from the day to day will do you both some good.

As long as you're spending time with your Bro, you're probably doing fine. It might help to keep in mind that your brother probably has stuff to say, and that he doesn't need advice.

Let me repeat that again: for the duration of the trip, he doesn't need advice.

Just let him have his say, try to see his perspective, try not to 'fix' the situation.

Road Trip has done me wonders, particularly with my family. I doubt your brother will leap at the opportunity, so it might be best to just tell him that you're both going out of town on an trip to unknown destinations. This is a good time to pay close attention -- if it's not isolated from his social group (whomever it is), this is when it'll come out.

Best of luck, plenty of good advice above, you'll both probably do fine without Road Trip, but then again it might just be the ticket.
posted by daver at 8:30 PM on July 29, 2004

I'll echo what plenty of other people have said, but I feel like chipping in with my bit, too. Who doesn't like talking about him/herself?

What worked for me was support. Support from my parents for whatever I ended up wanting to do. Specifically, when I dropped out of college after three years (sealing things up with three Fs my last semester) to drive around the country in a schoolbus with a bunch of crazy people, my parents supported me. They made their opinions known, they told me what they felt was best for me, but they let me do what I chose to do and supported me in it.

I honestly don't know what made them think that was the best thing to do, but it worked. The schoolbus adventure was my "time off." When that adventure fell apart after a while, I ended up back at home. That was part of the support: I could just go right back home. But I had learned a lot. I came up with a direction for myself, and I went back to school, a different school with a much different focus. I graduated without trouble and now I'm at a good graduate school in a field I really enjoy.

Thinking back, I can't imagine what they could have done better. Threats, bribes, yelling, stronger actions of any sort on their part to get me on a better path - all could easily have backfired. I chose my own path, learned it was actually a detour on my own, and found a better path on my own. But not entirely on my own, because my parents were smoothing the bumps along the way.

I think that happiness for your brother is unlikely to come by the route you or your parents want and expect it to. He needs to take his own path to his own happiness. And I'd bet that he doesn't have a clue what that is yet, so he'll have to find it. You and your parents should help him find it and help him do it. But the help cannot take the form of control. He has to control his life, you can help by supporting it.

It's difficult. It will be hard. For every success story here (MetaFilter: We're all fuck-ups, really), there are also failures. But it has worked out well, sometimes extremely well, and it is possible.

And I'll second almost everything everyone else has said. Especially the things about depression. That's what it sounds like, and that will make doing anything about one hundred times harder. Helping him with that should be the first and most major part of your support for him right now.

Normally I'd say something like, "but what do I know?..." But seeing as so many here all seem to be agreeing, and so many speak from direct personal experience, we might actually be onto something. Many things, actually. I'd read it all a few times.
posted by whatnotever at 9:28 PM on July 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'll third it all. Depression, needs to get help with that, and wtf does it matter if he goes into grunt manual labour for the next five or even ten years as he figures out what he wants from life?

It really isn't as if post-secondary education is the be-all and end-all of life.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 PM on July 29, 2004

I have been on both sides of this. I was a very bright and depressed suicidal teen and my children were the same. I have neither qualification nor first hand knowledge of the situation in order to diagnose depression but it sure sounds like it. All I can say is stay close and try to get your brother help. It may be a friend, an adult “who has been through this”, counseling, medication or just time and support (to echo many above). Depression is tricky. It creeps in with no notice and knocks the legs out from under you. I really believe that sometimes the better read and more questioning you are the harder it becomes to reach out for help. Just stay near and be there if he needs you. Don’t be offended if he hates you for offering to help. It’s like having Cancer. He can’t just pull up his socks and get over it. Wish I could offer a simple answer.
posted by arse_hat at 10:44 PM on July 29, 2004

One thing to remember is that nothing is permanent. My father worked in a factory for ten years and then went back to college. Yes, it can be hard to go back to college, but if you want to do it, you can do it.
posted by stoneegg21 at 11:13 PM on July 29, 2004

My mom just got her college degree this year at 50. Although we're all proud of her for the hard work she put in to get it, I don't think anyone who's met her would say her life up to this point was a failure or a waste. A lot of people might have made dour predictions about her when she was 18, though.

My 23-year-old brother just finished his first year of college--which was also his first year of education in about eight years. When he started withdrawing from school in his teenage years my family freaked out. We tried to push him back on to the only path we could imagine for him. He had to deal with his issues with high school conformity, personal sexuality and mental health before he decided it was something he'd like to do. Now he has his own place, a significant other, cats, and he's going to school partly because he doesn't want to work at Wal-Mart for the rest of his life, and partly because he really wants to learn.

My 15-year-old brother is dropping out of high school right now. He watches a lot of anime, plays a lot of video games. My parents talk to him about getting his GED and taking community college classes when he's ready, but in the mean time the focus is medication, therapy and getting to the place where he's right in his head.

I went to college right out of high school, and even though I was probably not ready and definitely insecure and depressed I managed to slog it all out. Education seems like just so much jumping through someone else's hoops to me, and so little about learning.

There are many paths to success, which can mean happiness, love, family, career, art, or something else. Having a college degree is essential on almost none of them.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:00 AM on July 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'll fourth (or is it fifth?) it all.

I went to magnet schools in middle and high school, and struggled with depression (though I didn't know it was that) throughout. Senior year of high school, I freaked out. It was a pretty mild freakout, all told, but I definitely felt the pressure re: college. Those five little words -- "the rest of your life" -- kept cropping up with annoying frequency, and it got overwhelming. People would tell me that my college decisions would affect every job interview, date, cocktail party, or whatever for the rest of my life, so choose wisely...but also to have a good time, enjoy my senior year, relax, et cetera. Stop the world, I wanted to get off. I decided that I wasn't ready for college right then, so I decided to take a year off.

In short, best decision I ever made. I'd recommend it to anyone who's thinking about it. I knew where I wanted to go to college (narrowed down to a few manageable choices), but couldn't face applying to them and asking for deferred admission, so I simply didn't. (This drove my parents nuts, so I dug in my heels, out of that brand of spite that is so particular to stubborn eighteen-year-olds.)

I'd agree, though, with someone's recommendation above that you have a plan for your time off. My thinking was that if college was to prepare you for the working world, I wanted a taste of work -- real work -- before I went off to school. I got a job, not a great one, but not a terrible one (answering an 800 number in a call center and making hotel reservations.) About a month later, I got a part-time job in my chosen field (TV production, working at a local station.) So I was working 65 hours a week, seven days a week. It was tiring, but I was having a blast. I was living at home, but paying a nominal rent. I made friends who were older than me and struggled to make ends meet, and I ran into some really interesting people I wouldn't have known otherwise, some of whom are still among my very best friends. I was saving lots of money, both for school and for the icing on the cake -- I had decided to go to Europe for a month at the end of my year off, right before I went off to school. It gave me a goal to work for.

So: I completed the applications, got accepted, picked a school, then quit my jobs, went off to Europe (with my recently-laid-off cousin), came back, and went off to college. My time off helped immeasurably. Not only did I have a year's worth of professional, real-world, non-internship experience in my field, I had a real understanding of how the corporate world worked and what kinds of things would be important to know.

And then, four years later, after I graduated and entered the workforce for the second time, I realized what an advantage I had over so many of the recent grads that didn't know how to behave in an office, didn't know how to act professionally, and basically didn't have their shit together. I'm not claiming that I had everything down cold then (nor do I claim that I have my shit together now), but I had a definite advantage in having seen all this before and figured it out in a lower-stakes situation.

Sorry for the bloviation here...but I really am thankful I did what I did. (And my mother told me, much later, that she was terrified I wouldn't go back to school. I was mystified -- I'd told her I was planning to go back, and that's what I did. But I can understand a parent's worry here.)
posted by Vidiot at 12:19 AM on July 30, 2004

And just to add another perspective, I work at a university and have some pastoral care responsibilities for 1st year undergrads. Every year we get new students who are clearly not prepared to face three or even one year of study and/or of living away from home, for one reason or another, eg because they have been pushed into it; because they don't have a clue what they want; because they were depressed to start with, and every year many of those people drop out and are worse off for the additional feelings of failure that entails and for the anguish that goes into having to make that decision. Better to back off and make sure it's right for your brother before he makes the step.
posted by biffa at 2:11 AM on July 30, 2004

Depression sounds very likely, maybe for a reason, maybe that ugly sort that has no reason. Maybe the reason is because there is something he his hiding. It sounds like what some go through if they start realizing they're gay.

It may be a surprise, but sometimes it is more difficult for a guy to accept himself as gay when he comes from a family that is loving. A guy is aware that being gay is something of a let-down to his parents, and that makes it harder to deal with his own internal handling of it. My partner had the problem with his parents, but not with his own identity. They're great people, it was not easy to dash their dreams of a daughter-in-law and grandkids.
posted by Goofyy at 2:24 AM on July 30, 2004

I'm sorry, your brother attempted suicide two months ago, and is not now receiving psychological care? Are you serious?

Get him help. Tomorrow. As soon as possible. Call your family practitioner, preist, veterinarian, anyone. Suicide attempts are not a 'normal teenage boy thing.'

My advice isn't as dramatic or as meaningful as some of the other stuff here (great advice, everyone), but maybe it'll help you out. After he gets (or starts getting) the depression and anxiety worked out, sit down with him and explain that this is his life. If he chooses, he can go out and live it, and never talk to anyone in his family ever again. He can be a professor or a lawyer or a drug dealer, or shit, a Chippendale's dancer.

Once I had the revelation that life didn't require me to maintain a bunch of associations with people and things I didn't like, things became a lot easier (and, strangely, I found myself maintaining the associations with quite a few of them.)
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:29 AM on July 30, 2004

My 19-year-old brother is blowing every chance he gets to do things right.

This is a judgement.

I fear he will do it again if pushed too hard about this most recent setback.

Then I would consider knocking off the attitude that he's a failure.

doesn’t seem to understand the consequences.

which are these:

seems completely unmotivated to do anything but lurk in the basement and play video games.

Because he's depressed and has a family that seems to want him to straighten up and fly right to their expectations.

Get him help. Stop worrying about how he makes your family look. Stop being embarrassed about him.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:11 AM on July 30, 2004

Give the kid unconditional love. Maybe he feels he is only valued for his achievements. Subconsciously he might want to fail to see if anyone still cares about him afterwards.
posted by Shane at 6:33 AM on July 30, 2004

I just feel so much better knowing that all of you turned out alright.

And what if we didn't, Coffeemate?
posted by pieoverdone at 7:56 AM on July 30, 2004

This is a judgement.

And who are you to sit in judgement of its legitimacy?
posted by dmt at 9:31 AM on July 30, 2004

Get off your brother's back. Point out some options (therapy, work, moving out, etc). Then let him do his own thing, whether you like it or not or are comfortable with it or not.

The U.S. has to be full of the most medicated depressed ADHD/ADD people on this planet. How does the rest of the world manage?
posted by Juicylicious at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2004

You would be wise to disregard any advice to "kick out" your brother. Homelessness is a dependable predictor of early death.
posted by joeclark at 10:38 PM on July 30, 2004

Wow - lots of replies. Couldn't read every one, but here's my .02. He sounds almost exactly like me at that age. I managed to *barely* graduate (something like a 1.6 GPA, baby! and we only needed 18 credits back then.) And I never had the suicide attempt. That's probably the most serious. And not to make it less serious, but it depends if it was really sincere. I mean, lots of kids that age go through the "I want to kill myself" phase and down 12 Valium or whatever. Not to make light of things, obviously - but if it was really an attempt he needs professional help, and if it was adolescent angst, well, he may not.
OK - college. I didn't want to go at 18. Knew I wasn't ready. Was sick of school after 13 years. So I moved to a new city and worked crap jobs for 3 years. Learned how to manage a checking account . . .pay my rent . . . buy food, etc. It was a great education. And then I realised if I didn't want to work crap jobs forever, I'd better go to college. Went to college and graduated with a 3.8. Much better environment for an independent thinker to thrive. Graduated from a top 20 law school after that. So I pretty much turned out "OK."
So basically there is no rush to go to college right away. Hell, why rush? Being a student is great. No one will know or even care if he has a diploma or GED once he starts school. So a GED is a fine option. Though if he's just lacking one course, it may be easier to just finish that English class.
If he IS excited to start school, the college may grant him a provisional acceptance. State schools are liberal about this. In fact in some states it's mandatory. He will basically just sign up for a remedial English class at the college (or perhaps a nearby Community College), which the HS will then accept credit for and award his diploma. Of course every state is a bit different, but that is a basic procedure.
But he may not be truly ready or "excited." He blew off the English class, so on some level he must have known that would cause him trouble in the Fall. He may just need a change of scene.
Only thing that really motivated me at that age was the allure of the fairer sex. Don't know if you can do much about that as a brother, but if he has a girlfriend (or two) and especially if one of them is starting college at Iowa State in the Fall . . .well, perhaps at little encouragement could be taken from that.
posted by sixdifferentways at 11:49 PM on July 30, 2004

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