How are you? Last year my brother tried to commit suicide. He was getting bullied in school. We have issues with our dad, and he was getting called names. I walked in on him hanging from his bed, and I nearly had a heart attack. It's been roughly a year since it happened, but I am still very nervous about leaving him by himself because I am worried that if it happens again I will not be there to save him again. I am sorry for coming to you with this because this isn't your problem [Papabear note to readers: this is why I am here! Please never apologize for “bothering” me because writing to me with your problems is what I do!], but how do I get over my fears of this happening again? I honestly cannot walk in on my brother like that again because I feel like I just might go insane. Also, is depression a hereditary problem? Because I do not want my family to go through that again.
Austin (age 17)
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Please forgive the slow reply. I am behind on letters still.
Very sorry to hear about your troubles. I need to know a little more about this, please. Have you sought help for him? Have you checked out the government site for information and help? http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now/ Is the bullying still going on or has that been stopped? Is he seeing a therapist?
Let me know about the above and I promise to reply promptly next time.
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He is seeing a therapist, and is on antidepressants. The bullying has stopped because he moved to a different school. And it is OK for the slow response because I understand that you get likely thousands of letters a day and you are writing a new book, too.
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I’m glad that the bullying has stopped and that your brother is getting help. I cannot imagine the horror you felt seeing your brother trying to kill himself, and I wish I could give you a big, consoling bear hug right now.
Your brother is not the only one suffering in your family, clearly. Have you considered finding a therapist for yourself? This would be to help you deal with what you saw and the anxiety you must be feeling about both your brother and, apparently, your father. Perhaps start with a school counselor. People who are helpful and caring, such as yourself, often forget that their hearts need mending, too.
You don’t mention your brother’s age, but I’m guessing he’s younger and perhaps a teen? The teenage years are extremely difficult ones, with those in their teens and twenties attempting suicide more than most (the exception being people 65 and older), and males are five times more likely to do it than females. Bullying definitely can exacerbate the chances of suicide (though it is only one of many factors). There has also been evidence for a genetic predisposition for suicide (my second cousin and grandmother both attempted suicide). Scientists learned a few years ago that there is a gene that can increase the risk of suicide; furthermore, Johns Hopkins University scientists are working to perfect a blood test to see whether people are at risk. You don’t mention whether other family members have committed suicide or not, but if there is a lot of that in your family it is something to consider seriously. Genetics are not the only reason for suicide, but they can, indeed, be part of the problem.
So, without trying to oversimplify things, there are three potential factors here with your brother: his age, his genetic heritage, and the bullying. You have removed the bullying factor, and he will grow out of his teen years, so that effectively gets rid of two factors, which is good news. In addition, he is getting help, which also lowers the risk. While no one can guarantee that your brother won’t attempt it again, it is also often the case that people do not repeat the act. They learn their lesson and move on, as in my case.
Oh, and make sure he stays away from drugs and alcohol!
Okay, so, what now? One thing is to be aware of the signs that he might be suicidal again. According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), these are things to look for:
If these warning signs are cropping up, then you need to make sure your brother is still attending his sessions, taking his meds, and so on. You can’t keep tabs on him all the time, but you can certainly be involved in his life and give him lots of love and encouragement to comfort him. Make sure he is involved in social activities, has friends, has goals and aspirations in life. Obviously, the happier he is in his social life and the more hope he has for the future, the less likely he will be to do this again.
The factor that is still a question mark for me is your dad. You don’t specify what the problem is with dad—is that something that is contributing to your brother’s state of mind? If so, you definitely need to address that, as well.
By doing the above, you can considerably lower or even eliminate the potential for another tragedy.
Back to you: the things you can do to help yourself include, as mentioned earlier, seeking some counseling yourself, knowing that you are doing all you can to prevent this from happening again, and, finally, understanding that you should never blame yourself if something bad happens. You can only do so much.
I’d like to recommend an organization: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They have chapters all over the country that offer counseling, not just for those who are struggling with suicide but also for their families who are trying to understand what is going on and how to cope with it. If there is not a chapter in your area, you can do some research to find a group or contact your local hospital’s mental health department for assistance.
Good luck!!! HUGS!!
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Basically the problem with dad is that he is an abusive ass, excuse my language. He tried to hit my mother, he tried to hit my cousin, he hit me multiple times; once, when I was ten, he left a black eye. He scratched me when I was 14, he tried choking me when I was 16, and just recently he punched me in the face and nearly broke my nose. I tried pressing charges each time, but every time my mother said I deserved it. My father also would fight and scream at the younger kids too, but he would never hit them. I think that this probably made my brother upset and stressed out, and after 11 years that is a lot of stress. I was adopted when I was 6 and he was 5.
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I’m sorry to hear this. If all you say is true, then it doesn’t matter at all if your mother defends your adopted father’s actions. I’m not sure what you mean by “I tried pressing charges.” Did you actually contact the police? Did they come over and then listen to your mother instead of you? That makes no sense to me. The authorities take child abuse very seriously.
Okay, what I recommend is two things: 1) contact your local Child Protective Services office and tell them what is going on. You and your brother are being physically and mentally abused by your father. A serious charge. 2) Contact Boys Town, a very helpful organization designed to help troubled youth like you and your brother, and their families.
You may be correct that the abuse contributed to what your brother did. Very understandable. It needs to be stopped. Can you be brave for Papabear and contact the people above? Don’t let your parents know. Your father is the abuser and your mother is on his side; telling them will prevent you from helping your brother and yourself.
Austin, I now suspect we've found the real cause here of your brother's suicide attempt. Your father's abuse probably led to depression for your brother; then, at school, kids can pick up on this; bullies spot troubled kids and target them as their victims. The combination of your father's physical abuse and your brother's peers' taunting were too much for him, and he tried to kill himself. This needs to stop.
Please keep me posted.
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