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Why Would Something that Happened When I Was 11 Still Bother Me Sometimes Today?

When I was 11 I found out that my brother had depression apparently he was even thinking about suicide. By parents were mad at me because somehow an 11 year old was suppose to know what to do. They missed the signs too. That night I cried myself to sleep because I was scared I didn’t understand what was going on with my brother or if he was going to be okay. He changed. I thought it was my fault. Anyways, sometimes these feelings arise when he does things like tell me he doesn’t want to be alive anymore or smokes because if he can’t kill himself at least he can smoke. I couldn’t help him then and I can’t help him now. Everytime he tells me he doesn’t want to live it makes me feel like he doesn’t love me because if he doesn’t value his life isn’t that the same as not valuing any life? Last week I watched a documentary in sociology on the Jonestown massacre where 900 people died all those people just threw their lives away because one man told them to. If that’s what it takes then maybe a life isn’t as valuable as I thought. So I don’t know why something like this should affect me so much I mean my brother is the one with depression. Am I wrong for feeling this way?

Yes, it’s wrong to feel the way you do. Your thinking is skewed. Even the most rigorously trained and most qualified therapists can’t help everyone. It’s unrealistic to believe that you could treat your mentally ill and suicidal brother. To believe that you “should” be able to help your brother without any training is unrealistic and simply wrong. Perhaps it’s an idea you picked up from your parents who expected you, at 11 years of age, to know how to help your brother. You couldn’t help him then and you can’t help him now and that would be true for anyone without professional training.

Treating suicidal individuals is extremely complicated. Only highly trained professionals should attempt to work with individuals who are suicidal.

You should encourage your brother to seek treatment. He may or may not take your advice. Hopefully he will but whether he does or not has nothing to do with you. His talking about ending his life is not because he doesn’t love you. It’s because he is unhappy and suffering or perhaps because he is mentally ill or misguided in life. It has nothing to do with you. You do not have that kind of power over people. No one does.

To have to watch someone you love needlessly suffer with treatable mental health problems is one of the most difficult situations in life to tolerate. For that reason, you would benefit from counseling. You are the ideal candidate. Maybe, if you try counseling, your brother might follow in your footsteps. Maybe not. That decision is up to him. Thank you for your question. Good luck and please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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