Dear Rachel,

I don’t know what to do. My sixteen-year-old twin brother is out of control and my mother doesn’t seem to be able to deal with it. We had always been very close, but now all he does is play video games (6 hours on a school day and 10-12 on the weekends). He is mean to my mom and won’t talk to anyone, including me, and these games have become his new friends. I am really worried that he will become depressed but I don't know how to help him! Please advise.

No Clue What to Do

Dear No Clue What to Do,

Thank you for taking the time to write in about your brother. I applaud your effort on your family’s behalf.

It seems to me that there are two issues that need to be addressed. One is your brother and second, is a way for the rest of you relate to him. Let’s start with your brother…

From what you have expressed above, it sounds like your brother is in need of some immediate and acute intervention. You have described an anti-social, depressed and angry young man with low self-esteem who has basically shut himself off from the “real” world, in favor of a fantasy world. These behaviors you mention are truly worrisome. This is a boy who needs some professional counseling care ASAP. My question is, does he know that? Does your mother recognize that?

Being that he is still a teenager, being a dependent at home means that there are certain rules that need to be made and followed through. Ultimately what it means is that he’s still got to do what Mom and Dad say. The fear that he will “become” depressed is misplaced because he is already depressed. The question is what are you all going to do to help him? I would strongly encourage your mother to visit a counselor as well and get some guidance on how best to connect with him. It is difficult if not impossible to “help” someone who does not want to be helped. So she is going to need a lot of support helping him get to a different place in life.

Your mother needs to a) recognize that there is a problem, b) she needs to understand that there is strength in asking for help (like you did), and then follow through with getting him the help he needs. His behavior can be viewed as a silent cry for help. He probably doesn’t understand why he feels the way he does, he is probably confused and pained and doesn’t know how to cope with it. So, he chooses to not cope and ultimately, to disappear. It is her responsibility as a parent to throw him a life line.

Both your brother and your mother need to know that there is lots of help out there. Aside from therapy (which I strongly suggest), a few other ideas to get you started are a regular physical fitness routine (specifically a martial art, which is great for the body and the mind – it especially helps to build self confidence), and a nutritional work-up (food is the fuel that makes our body run, without proper nutrients the body simply can’t function the way it should, so visiting a nutritionist or a naturopath would be another great place to begin), and maybe even a vacation (without computer access) or some kind of camp. There are some amazing winter programs for boys all over the country.

In terms of you and your situation with him, you are not the one to insist on counseling, but you should continue to try to talk to him and let him know you love him and care about him. He may push you away right now, but it is because he is not well, and when he is, he will appreciate that you were there for him during this time. Chassidic philosophy teaches that “words from the heart enter the heart.” You may not be able to solve his problems, but you can speak to him, openly and honestly and share with him your pain and concern. I have no doubt that sooner or later he will recognize that you can truly be a support to him and even more importantly, a friend. Your brother is lucky to have someone like you who is so concerned for his well-being.

Best of luck and I hope to hear good news from you soon.