Can I Get My Little Brother Mental Health Treatment Without my Parents Knowing?

Published: March 29, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,
Hi, so I am 18 years old sister who has a little brother that just opened up to me about how he thinks he might have social anxiety issues, depression and hears negative voices in his head. Is there any way I can bring him to consult with a therapist without my parents knowing because my parents are the type of people who do not truly understand the concept of mental illnesses. It can you tell me what I can do to help him in any way?
Signed: Can I Get My Little Brother Mental Health Treatment Without my Parents Knowing?

Dear Can I Get My Little Brother Mental Health Treatment Without my Parents Knowing?,

TeenHealthFX admires you for wanting to ensure that your brother receives whatever mental health treatment he needs. We can appreciate your desire to do this in secret since you feel your parents won’t understand, however, a reputable therapist would not agree to see a minor without a parent’s consent. And even if they would, the chance of successful treatment for your brother would be significantly lowered if your parents were not involved. It is crucial for your parents to be involved in his treatment so that they have a clear understanding of what is going on with him and how to best be there for him so that he can get the love, help and support he needs.

As for how to proceed, TeenHealthFX sees a couple of options. The first option is for you to sit down with your parents to tell them about your concerns. Let them know that you have something really important to discuss with them about and that you really need them to listen to you with an open mind. Then you can talk to them about the signs and symptoms you see in your brother that concern you in terms of feeling he would benefit from mental health treatment. Let them know that the earlier parents intervene when their children are dealing with mental health issues, the better they will do in the long-run. You could also print out the Mayo Clinic article, Mental Health Illness in Children: Know the Signs, so they can start to educate themselves about this. Then tell your parents that it would be very meaningful to you, and helpful for your brother, for them to schedule an appointment with a reputable mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, who has experience working with children. If your parents are reluctant to do this, suggest they start by speaking to your primary care physician or a counselor at your brother’s school.

If you do not feel comfortable going directly to your parents, or you try and they are resistant to following through, the second option would be to speak to a trusted adult who can intervene on your brother’s behalf. You could speak to an extended family member, your family doctor, a counselor at your school or a counselor at your brother’s school. If your brother is dealing with mental health issues and your parents are not addressing it, it is important for an adult to reach out to your parents on your brother’s behalf. It would also be helpful for your brother’s school counselor to be aware so that person can be a source of support for him at school.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX