DEAR ABBY: I have a sibling, "Bailey," who suffers from panic attacks and anxiety disorder. Bailey was first diagnosed while I was attending college. I had a standard psychology class that helped me understand the basics of what he was going through, but whenever there would be a problem with him, I would always feel completely out of my depth.
Bailey has improved over the last couple years thanks to medicine and lots of therapy. But recently, he threatened to commit suicide. Our parents took him straight to the hospital. When I came home after work and heard what had happened, I sympathized with my parents, but I had no idea how to respond to such an ordeal. Worse, my parents want ME to talk to Bailey. Where do I even begin?! Please advise. -- AT A LOSS IN THE EAST
DEAR AT A LOSS: Much as your parents might wish it, you are not an expert when it comes to mental illness and you cannot be your brother's therapist. When you see Bailey, tell him you love him and had no idea he was in so much pain. Ask what kind of emotional support he needs from you, and be prepared to listen. Encourage him to talk openly with his therapist, because no one should have to go through what he is experiencing alone, and his therapist can help in ways that -- much as you all might wish to -- a relative cannot.