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4 Steps To Help Someone When They Don't Want It

Tips for Parents of Adult Children with Mental Illness

Source: RobertChlopas/Pixabay

When mental illness hits, it can hit hard. It hits the person who has it hard and it hits the family equally hard, though in very different ways.

One of the most common questions I get after my presentations and shows is: "How can I help my loved one when they don’t think they need help?" So common in fact I've written previous posts: How to Help Your Adult Child If They Have a Mental Illness and When Adult Children Don't Want Help. There are many reasons for not wanting help. Denial, shame, anosognosia (lack of insight, a symptom of psychosis itself).

Regardless of the reason, as a family member or friend, it can feel powerless. But there are steps you can take. Here are a few to help you help your loved one move forward on the journey to recovery and wellness.

  1. Remember the journey to accepting there is a problem is theirs alone. Though you can help prep the ground, by having discussions and listening with an open heart, by setting clear boundaries, by offering information when appropriate. For anyone who’s been in this position, you’re aware it takes more than one conversation. It takes many. It’s about voicing your concern with compassion. While at the same time it’s about setting boundaries for your own well-being, recognizing you are not responsible for their health and happiness. If you’re a parent of an adult child, this is one that is most heartbreaking to learn and understand. Letting go is tough even when the adult child is well and thriving. The video and resources of Dr. Komrad have some concrete suggestions.
  2. Ask your loved one to humor you and go to see the doctor together. When family members ask me how to help their loved ones, the issue has been going on for quite some time. And in that time entrenched power struggles have developed and mistrust on both sides has been established.
  3. Rebuild trust and rapport. Your adult son or daughter, brother or parent may continue to get angry when you suggest anything. The trick is for you to not get angry back. Easier said than done. But the goal is to have them be willing to see someone for a general check-up. In that appointment have a mental health check-up too. References from Dr. Xavier Amador below are excellent about how to listen without creating power struggles and rebuild trust essential for healing.
  4. Evaluate whether you really are the best person to talk to your loved one right now. Be honest. If conversations almost always end with tempers flying, another person who has his/her best interests at heart and can communicate more easily is a better option—at least for now

Online resources:

~ If you need help immediately, please search this list of crisis lines and centers.

~ This video from Dr. Mark Komrad has some good points. From 49:30 minutes on, he describes when, how to talk to someone, some do’s and don’ts. Some of his approaches are paternalistic, but I like the tips. He does evaluations, but the cost is extremely high. He also has an extensive book list. See his website:

© Victoria Maxwell

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