The pain that mental health issues accompany is not the pain of an arm, or leg, or head, it is the pain deep-rooted to emotions. A feeling of inability to control anything at all. And therefore, when a loved one goes through something that looks so untangible, it is hard for anyone to get around and understand what it is that has debilitated their loved one so much so that he/she is not able to carry out the normal tasks from everyday life.
To help your brother get through his mental illness, it is essential to make him realize that you care about him. And that you are not here to give him a list of do’s and don’ts, but you intend to hear him out. Tell him that none of this is his fault. That he is loved and so full of love. Remind him of all the times he did great with his studies/job/ or just anything he is good at. Offer to visit the therapist with him. And while you do that, lending him a hand to do his everyday tasks won’t be a bad idea.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can go about things.
Reaching out to your brother – What To Say?
Has your brother been acting a bit off lately? Do you feel like he has been isolating himself a bit too much? Has he gotten too quiet? Does it feel like something is wrong but you can’t get your finger around what it is?
If you have been noticing some changes that might point towards depression, reaching out to him and talking to him about it has to be the first step.
Tell him about the changes you have noticed
When you reach out to someone in distress, you should look for the right time and place to do so. A quiet afternoon at home could be a good choice. In a situation like that, keep yourself calm and initiate the conversation with a conventional ‘What’s up?’
Fish for the answer he chooses to give.
Sit him down and you could say:
You look a bit sad nowadays. Everything okay?
I have been noticing you try to stay alone a lot nowadays. I hope there is nothing serious going about?
There is quite a possibility that he will be reluctant to answer your questions. And that’s when you move on to the next part of the conversation.
Tell him he can take his time to open up
While you both reach the awkward part of the conversation, you should be accepting of his unwillingness to open up. Give him the space he needs.
And if you feel like he is not comfortable opening up about it at that moment, word your concerns with:
I don’t really know what you are going through, but if you need time to think about it before you word it out, feel free to process it.
If you do not want to make it too wordy you could say:
If you ever feel like talking about it, I will be right around the corner.
Make sure you do not sound sarcastic at all. When we talk to our brothers we often forget to keep our tones soft. But guess what, he needs that the most right now.
Assure him that the talk will be confidential
When someone is depressed, they are scared. They do not want a lot of people to know about how they feel. Especially their parents.
Children often feel too ashamed to talk to their parents about their depression in the beginning. Therefore, it is extremely important to make it clear to your brother that you are not the ‘parent’s agent’ right now.
While you have the first awkward conversation with him on the topic slip the sentence in it.
Hey, just in case you are wondering. Everything that we talk about will remain a secret between the two of us.
Or you could say:
This is just between the two of us. You can trust me with this.
A pat on the shoulder and a soft smile could be good to go.
Tell him that you are here
This is the sentence we have heard a lot of people say too often. But in times of distress, this sentence alone can take so much of our stress away.
All you need to tell him when you leave his room is:
I am here whenever you need to talk or help of any sort.
Let him know that you are concerned
We hardly make the cheesy conversation with our siblings, but it is extremely important to develop trust in the relationship. When someone is depressed, they need constant reminders about how much you care about them.
I am worried about you.
Or simply say:
I care about you a lot.
Avoid Saying These Things:
Do not reprimand him for his mood swings
If you feel empathy for your brother, you need to express it the right way. All of the efforts that you make to get closer to him will mean nothing if your words do not show that you want to.
Do not talk about how much problem he is causing to the family
When someone is having a hard time understanding what they are going through, it is hard for them to keep everything in place. Their aggression or inability to deal with too many people is a symptom of depression. Do not shame him for it.
Someone who is depressed is very sensitive to what is said or done by the people around him. You, therefore, have to be very careful about what you say.
When He Finally Opens Up – What To Say To Your Brother?
When someone talks to you about their problems, they just want to be heard. And some words of care and empathy could be good!
Listen To Him
While your brother talks to you about what is bothering him, listen to him carefully. Do not get distracted. Or give him suggestions on how he can feel less. When you are feeling a lot, there is no way to ‘feel it less’ at that exact moment. So when he talks, you can affectionately hold his hand, or hug him. Let him cry if he does so. And while he does that, you can always put in small expressions of care, like ‘Oh, Johnny!’
You saying his name will make him feel heard and like belongs somewhere.
Validate his emotions
If he tells you about something he feels sad about, you could say something like:
Oh that must be so hard for you.
And when he shares a traumatic experience with you, you could say:
I am sorry you had to go through something like that. That must have been so difficult. I wish I could make you feel better in some way.
Tell him that you are with him
It is extremely important for someone who just opened up to you to know what the other person feels like after they have shared their feelings with someone.
After they have talked to you about their experience or emotions try saying something like, ‘I realize you are going through a hard time, but if it makes you feel better, I would like to say that I am here whenever you need me and even if you don’t, know that I will be standing beside you.’
Remind him that it is not his fault
A lot of people who are driven into depression have a cycle of self-deprecating thoughts going on in their minds.
They are drawn to think that everything is their fault. So when your brother is having a hard time, say: ‘Depression is a mental illness in which some chemicals in the brain get upset.
I just want to remind you that whatever has happened with the levels of the chemicals in your brain is not your fault.’
Remind him that he is loved
‘None of what you feel or what you are going through makes you any less worthy of love. You are loved.’
Say that to him while looking him in his eyes. And say that while you mean it. You don’t even have to make it that wordy.
You can just say, ‘I love you ’ with a smile and that can lighten up his mood.
Ask him if there is any way you can help
A person who is depressed has trouble getting off the bed, let alone do his/ her daily chores. At this point, they are mostly ashamed of asking for help.
So when you now know that your brother is depressed, you should ask him if he needs any help with anything.
Remember, it is not healthy to force your help on him either.
So if he declines your proposal of helping him out. Accept it. And do not hold a grudge.
Avoid Saying These Things:
I have been through something similar!
This conversation is not about you. Do not make it about you.
When you talk to him about his struggles, it has to be solely about him. This is how you make a depressed person feel special.
Not by doing something fancy but by hearing him out.
Look at the bright side
When a brain goes through a chemical imbalance, it is incapable of looking at the bright side. Even if they can see how there are so many good thighs about life, they are not able to register them as the good things about life.
When someone tells you about their struggle, telling them to focus on the bright things is equivalent to trivializing their emotions.
Do not be ungrateful
Gratitude is an emotion that comes along feeling content. A depressed person has gone to a valley far away from that.
They will take time to get back to it.
To expect them to be grateful all of a sudden is too much to ask for and unfair!
Down The Road- What To Say?
When you think that your brother has grieved enough, your conversation can take a new turn.
Ask him if he thinks something triggers him
The first step to healing is recognizing the source that is causing the pain. Depression is a multifactorial illness. A lot of factors may cause a person to get depressed. It could be a good idea if you help your brother track down some of the causes that might have caused him the pain.
Remind him that depression is a mental ILLNESS
A lot of depressed people can mistake their struggle as a state of mind. This makes them think that there is no way out of it. However, if it is looked at as an illness that has a treatment, things become clearer. You could add things like, ‘I know you are suffering but this suffering has a treatment and I think you should consider that.’
Offer to go to the therapist with him
A lot of people are reluctant in going to the therapist because they are scared. ‘What will I say? My problems are not even real.’
Self-doubt begins kicking in. If they have someone to be with while they visit a therapist, it becomes easier for them. You could say, ‘In case you plan on going to the therapist, I could tag along if you want me to.’
Kick that self-doubt off of him
‘All of what you are going through is valid. And it is hard.’
You saying that will pull him out of the zone where he believes that he is feigning it all. It is essential for his recovery that he understands that he is depressed and that his problems are valid.
Ask him about suicidal ideation
Suicidal ideation is one of the most dangerous symptoms of depression. It is best if you stay aware of it. You could ask:
Do you think you feel like killing yourself sometimes?
While you ask that, also clarify:
I am asking because I love you and I care about you.
What NOT to Say?
You are too emotional
That is another tried and tested way of trivializing the emotions of someone who is struggling. Everyone feels vulnerable once in a while and that is okay.
You are too stubborn
Deciding whether or not he wants to take therapy is a confusing decision for him to take because it is something so new to him, he is afraid, and because the judgment in depression gets impaired. If he is taking too long to decide it, be patient with him.
Recovery Period – What you can tell your brother?
Remind him how far he has come
Healing from depression is a slow process, therefore it is very important to appreciate your loved one for all the struggle he has gone through.
I am so proud of how far you have come.
I know healing is a slow and tiring process, but seeing you deal with it so nicely makes me feel so proud of you!
These are some of the sentences you can pitch in.
Remind him about his hobbies
I love your voice. Would you like singing something for me?
I am so waiting to see your upcoming art piece! I wonder when you will get done with it!.
When on the road to recovery, a person is on a journey to rediscovering him/herself.
You should play your part in helping them do that!
Never forget to tell him how much you love him
Say that to him. Whenever you feel like his morale is turbulent.
Recovery is not an easy journey to take and the words of kindness from a loved one can make them less harsh along the way.
Remind him that it is going to be okay
In moments of uncertainty, you just need someone to come and whisper it to you. Tell that to your brother.
It is going to be okay.
What not to say?
Why is your recovery taking so long?
This question can be extremely depreciative for someone who has been trying to get through something. Everyone has their timeline and their way of dealing with things.
Be patient while they go through it. Because while they go through it, they surely grow through it.
Siblings are one of the very few people who genuinely care about us. In times of hardship, even if they do not look at you for help, you must lend them a hand.
Depression is not an easy illness to get through. It involves therapy along with a lot of resilience, support, and time.
If you manage to make your brother feel supported in times like that, there isn’t a better sibling your brother could have asked for.
Keep making Earth a better place, but while you do that, make sure that you are doing okay too.