Living with someone who needs mental health help but can't or won't get it can be very frustrating, but also carries a burden of some responsibility if you believe that they are a danger to themselves or a danger to others. People who are actively ill are usually not the best people to decide to seek treatment; these people will actually deny any need for help if pressed. As a responsible family member, it then falls to you to try to get the help needed and the way to do this may be complicated and unpleasant. This article will explain what your options are if you are in this delicate and unpleasant predicament.
You have a family member that is talking about suicide; you have a friend that is telling you they want to hurt people; you have a loved one that has stopped eating, drinking, bathing and that appears to be talking to people you can't see. All of these situations require some type of intervention. By law, if you are aware of these circumstances, you also have a responsibility to try to get help for these people.
No one wants to be the one to send a loved one into a mental hospital for treatment, especially when it will be against their will. However, if the only other option is to do nothing and allow an event to occur, you may be liable under the law because you had prior knowledge and did nothing. We all read about these events in the papers and wonder why "no one did anything before it got out of hand?"
What to do in this situation--
First, you need to talk very directly with the person about your observations and concerns. Listen carefully to the responses without being judgmental or offering solutions. After you hear them out, make your decision about how serious the conditions are and whether you need to go farther in your search to get help.
Most cases can be resolved at this step. Knowing that you are aware of the struggle they are having; knowing that you are willing to listen with an open mind; knowing that you are there to help if they need it--all goes a long way to resolving the frustration and dismay they may feel. They may feel such relief that you noticed and took time to ask them about it that the problem will simply resolve itself by talking it out with you.
If the problem still exists and you feel help is required--
For truly suicidal people, talking about it will not resolve the problem. You will not "make them act" by discussing the issue, but sometimes the underlying problem requires more than an offer of a shoulder to lean on and an ear to talk to. Someone who is seriously suicidal needs immediate hospitalization for their safety and the safety of others.
Homicidal thoughts occur. The actual questions to get answers to would be if there is a plan in place to commit the act and if there is access to the necessary tools to complete it. We all say that we want "to kill" someone at some time or another, but not everyone who says it will actually spend time thinking up a plan and gathering up the tools to do so. This person is an imminent danger to others and requires immediate hospitalization to prevent harm to their target.
For those who display increasing vegetative symptoms--sleeping all the time, not eating, not bathing, not interacting with others, not going to work, not caring for their children--you need to assess if the problem is depression, psychosis, or simply a person who has become overwhelmed by life and its challenges. For depression and psychosis you may need to seek professional help with hospitalization. For someone who is overwhelmed, you may need to search the community for support and help them to access these avenues. They may need to see a counselor or therapist to learn about programs designed to help them deal with daily issues.
If hospitalization will be required--
There are three ways to access hospital services:
1. The person will agree to get help and will go voluntarily to the hospital for treatment. This is always the best choice, but unfortunately not always the one used.
2. The person can go the the nearest Emergency Room to be assessed by a clinician and have them determine if hospitalization is needed. The person may be willing to do this, as most people don't associate ER visits with being admitted to a psychiatric facility. This way works well, but as we all know, the ER waiting room is usually full and you will be there quite a long time.
3. You can take the person directly to a psychiatric hospital for an immediate assessment by their clinicians. This choice, though the most direct and efficient, usually will be met with strong resistance. No one really wants to be admitted to a mental hospital, even when you know you need to be.
What to do if you cannot get them to go--
Every city, county, and state has someone designated as a Mental Health Officer that can complete paperwork to have someone admitted against their will. These officers will transport the person to the hospital or will arrange for the police to do so. This option is very traumatic for the person, but as a last resort, it will get them the help they need. In this situation, there needs to be an imminent danger to self or others.
To conclude, there are various ways for you to help a loved one get the psychiatric help they may need. From simply connecting with them in a non-judgemental way and offering help to the most dramatic solution of involuntary commitment by a Mental Health Officer, you can get help when needed. The problem is that the process is long and cumbersome; there are laws that must be followed to protect someone from false imprisonment in an institution. But the bottom line will always be the safety of the person and the safety of others around that person.
Living with a mentally ill person can be a challenge. Most mentally ill people are capable of living productive and happy lives out in the community, even actively helping others in their communities. It is only during infrequent crises that help may need to be sought. We all are under extreme pressure and stress daily and we all deal with these things differently. Those with a mental illness are simply more susceptible to these stresses and have fewer coping skills to help them deal with them. There are going to be times when help will need to be given even if it is not wanted.How to Get Your Loved Ones the Mental Health Help They Need