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Posted by: Jane | 2003/03/13

Depression, denial and strange behaviour as result of bankruptcy

My brother-in-law lives 900 km away from us and his parents are deceased. He has had a succession of bad luck in his life- both parents died when he was young, his wife left him and they later divorced, he left his job of many years and began a business venture. This venture seemed to be going very succesfully and he had many friends "hanging on". Things started going sour towards the end of the year and now he has lost the business. His personal assets (car and house) are being attached. His friends have had enough of him saying that he has let them down, lied to them and taken advantage of them. He has no income that we know of. When he phones us (we can't phone him because his phones have been cut off) he couldn't be happier. He also tells us that he is free of the shackles of his business and that he has so many other opportunities headed his way. He is also referring a lot to God and that he is waiting for Him to show him the way.
When his friends phone us they tell us he does nothing but work in his garden all day, washes peoples cars and generally is quite loopy. All attempts to reason with him have failed.
We have now heard that they will be selling his house in execution very soon and his best friend (who now wants nothing to do with him) has phoned us and asked us to take him away. What do we do? We are far away. We have asked him to come to us, but he says he is too busy with business deals and the like. He says his friends are lying. Do we take a hard line? Do we get him institutionalised? and what about the cost involved ? My husband and I have been married for a mere 4 months and purchased a house, so money is very very tight at the moment.
Is there an institution or society (eg. lifeline) that we could ask advice from?
Your assistance is appreciated.

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Our expert says:
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Dear Jane,
I can easily see what a difficult situation this is. It's barely possible to guess exactly what's going on, at such a distance. Maybe he has some form of psychological disorder, such as a manic disorder, as a result of the stress of the bankruptcy and business failure ; maybe he was developing some such disorder, which may in part or even largely be the cause of the business failure itself. Maybe he's handling the fear and embarrassment of the situation be excessive use of Denial, the psychological mechanism by which we avoid thinking of unpleasant things, and pretend they aren't happening.
Your ability to intervene at a distance, is also limited. Maybe his brother ( your husband ? ) is his next of kin, which might give him some right to attempt to intervene --- but he'd have to be there himself, to check things out. If he is convinced, having met with him, that his brother is mentally disordered compared with his usual state, and that he may be a risk to himself or others due to this state, then, only, is there some possibility of compulsory intervention to provide full assessment and treatment, with the aid of a local doctor or two. Better still, if he finds his brother to be unwell, he may be able to persuade his brother to see a doctor, maybe even in a hospital Casualty dept, especially if a teaching Hospital / medical School is nearby, for assessment and advice.
I understand that the disance and expense involved may make this impossible to do.
Lifeline could only help the man is he himself would phone them, and recognized that he had a problem needing help. Similarly, no institution can act unless the man asks for help himself, in person ; or unless the next-of-kin seeks compulsory admission for examination and treatment, based on their direct observation of him. It would be difficult and probably impossible to arrange such intervention at long distance, based on reports from the man's friends, denied by him himself.
Is it possible one of those friends considers him mad rather than bad, and might explore whether such emergency intervention could be arranged at that distant end ?

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Our users say:
Posted by: Paul | 2003/03/13

Sounds like your brother is trying his utmost to keep a positive outlook on things which is the right way to go about recovering from what has happened. I wonder if having him institutionalised is the right thing to do.

Reply to Paul

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