Mental Health Treatment for My Mother

Updated on December 27, 2010
A.G. asks from Chicago, IL
11 answers

My mother has been mentally ill for many years, perhaps her whole life. My brother and I would like to discuss treatment with my father, who is in complete denial, as is my mother. Does anyone have advice on how to speak with my father about my mother? We have lightly touched on it before with him to no avail. Although my mothers illness is quite obvious, it is not talked about in my family other than between my brother and myself. My mother is not an immediate danger to others or herself, so treatment will have to be voluntary.

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answers from Portland on

I know how frustrating it is to know someone needs mental health help and they refuse. Since you only say that she is not an immediate danger and her husband is also in denial, I suggest that your only recourse is to back off and let them live their lives as they wish to live them. They're adults.

I suggest that you continue to love them, express your concern in gentle ways and not try to push them into something they do not see a need for.

If she's doing things that upset you and/or your family then you'll need to find a way to take care of yourself and family so that you're able to manage your own feelings towards her. This may mean spending less or no time with her. That in it's self might open the door to more discussion about the situation and ways to help. But it most likely will not. Doing so means that you are respecting their wishes while taking care of yourself.

My mother was very unhappy and seriously depressed most of her life. She refused mental health care. I kept in mind that she was from a generation in which mental illness was a stigma as well as there being very little effective treatment for it. I offered to help her find help. She refused. I just continued to love her. Spent what time I could with her letting her know that I cared about her and her happiness. A couple of times over the years she did take antidepressant medication but then a life event would throw her a curve and she'd stop. All I could do was keep loving her. Because of her negative view of life, life dealt her many difficult times. I just had to accept that she could not change.

I suggest that since your mother has been this way for years that you cannot change her nor get her to accept treatment. People really do become less flexible and less likely to make changes even when given help. Mental illness becomes so entrenched that even if we are able to get the person to a professional person they cannot become healthy.

It is difficult and sad to see a loved one suffer but it is their choice. We have to take care of ourselves and let go of trying to take care of them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Unless she is a danger or voluntarily wants to go to therapy and to the doctor then there is basically nothing you can do. By bringing it up to your father again it may alienate him. If you really want to address the issue with him then you to make a list of her behaviors that concern you and why you think these behaviors are abnormal. If he is aware but not interested in doing anything about it then again, you will just be alienating him.

Another option you have is to make an appointment with a counselor yourself and discuss your concerns so that they can give you some perspective and perhaps help you have more information about what might be wrong with your mom. It can never hurt to have someone to talk to that is totally objective and that has no personal interest in the outcome.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

print out some propaganda on the nature of your mom's disability and let your dad read it, highlight the spots where it talks about what will work and how life changing it would be if she were treated. Some spouses dont want their partner getting healthy, they are afraid they would leave them. that could be why your dad is resistent to fix her? Just a thought.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I feel my MIL has mental health issues. She is definitely depressed and I believe she is somewhat out of touch with reality. My FIL knows this, but since she is not interested in therapy OR medication, our attempts to discuss the subject with him or her have fallen on deaf ears. General head nodding, ummm-hmmmming and then they fall into their same old pattern.
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make her get treatment if she is in denial.
So I'm not sure talking to your dad will do any good. Jst be prepared that nothing may change.
I liked the idea of printing out some factual information from credible websites and passing it on to your dad.
If he's anything like my FIL, it won't make it off of the kitchen counter top, which shows ME he is resistant to change as well b/c after 50 years, they have an unhealthy, yet enabling and symbiotic relationship. She's like the parasite sucker on the whole mammal family--especially her husband.
Maybe take him out to lunch and have the list of symptoms and treatment options handy to review? Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A..

I'm sorry that you are having to go through this. It can be quite challenging to try and encourage someone to get help, especially when they don't believe that there is a problem. That can be really tough.

Have you determined her diagnosis or do you just feel that there is a problem that has been undiagnosed? If you have information on her diagnosis, it might be helpful to show the info to your Dad. Maybe he needs to see it on paper to compare her behavior to the symptoms/characteristics of that specific diagnosis?

In what way is her mental illness having a negative impact on her functioning?

I know this is tough.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I went through this same type of thing so I know how frustrating it can be. My mom's illness wreaked havoc in our lives though but my dad refused to see it. There isn't much you can unless she's a threat to herself or others. My mom got to the point where she WAS deemed a threat, hospitalized for 3 days and then deemed not a threat anymore and released. We did this a few more times before I realized that it's just not going to work unless she chooses to get treated. Convincing your dad may help (show him some research so he can see for himself maybe) but ultimately it's your mom who has to really realize she needs treatment. Other than that, your hands are tied...You just need to focus on creating a healthy balance in life for yourself and not getting sucked into the craziness. It took me a LONG time to accept this answer but unfortunately that's just how it is. Best of luck,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

As you already know, you cannot force your mother to get help or force your father out of denial. The best advise that I can offer (my mother has mental illness also), for you and your brother is to get therapy for yourself, that way you will be better able to cope with your Mom's mental illness and it will also help you realize how it does and doesn't affect you. If your mom's illness affects you and your brother and I am sure that it does in many ways that you may not even realize - for example, do you tip toe around her, personalize her feelings, make excuses for her, etc...therapy for you can help you stop giving her mental illness the power to control you or affect you in an adverse way. It will help you let go and see beyond her illness and help you and your brother see yourselves separate from her illness.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

if she isnt a risk or threat to anyone, Im not sure what you can really do. Mental illness is sad to "watch" or see, but really the ill person can be so lost in it that it doesnt really change anything or affect their life- so to speak. she's used to living this way. I dont know what the diagnosis is or if there is one, but you say its quite obvious. In what way? what would you like to see changed, and how do you think it would better her life? Medications come with a long list of side effects, most of which are at least annoyingly unpleasent. Therapy could dig up lord only knows what, or even confuse her memories with fantasies and make it worse. I think it would be wise to really evaluate the situation and what it is you'd like to see, and how it will impact your moms life (and you dad and rest of family). She has lived this way for many years, and likely they are comfortable. My own mom has been "battling" mental health issues, and her diagnosis's and treatments have varied so much, it often depends on the doctor she sees and probably her mood, but shes taken so many drugs, had electric shock therapy, all sorts of personal and group therapy, none have "worked", really I think shes just worse off, always hoping for a "cure" when really she needs to accept herself, her past, her issues and lay many things to rest. Psychiatry really isnt a science. Its a pseudo science, but there is no "test" or any way to be certain what is truly "wrong" no proof of missing or inactive or confused neurotransmitters... A busy schedule/ day leaves little room for many mental illnesses.

watch that video, and you may think differently about whats the "right" thing to do. Just my opinion, but Ive been around this my whole life.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I loved Marda's post.

I'd like to add that there are support groups for people who are friends and family of people with mental illness/es. Here is a link that may be of some value.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

About your father being in denial, I mean.
How else could he continue to live as he has for all these years.
They have probably worked out accommodations between themselves
that work effectively for them.
If she is not a danger to herself or others,
why do you and your brother want to upset the apple cart?
If you simply would like to get her into outpatient therapy,
talking with or without medication,
I think you could bring your dad with you to visit
a previously checked-out competent therapist
with whom you would explain your concerns
and let the therapist support your intentions,
speaking to your dad as a competent but neutral third party.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Tough situation so first off, I'm sorry about this weight being present for so long. Second, it's really difficult to know what might be a good approach without also knowing what you mean by 'mental illness'. I'm not saying you should necessarily share here if it's too personal, but depending on the situation there are multiple approaches.

For example, some conditions are degenerative (altzheimers, dimentia, schizophrenia) and intervention might slow down the process and medical attention is in your mothers best interest. By degenerative I mean symptoms progress (frequency and intensity) over time.

By the way you described this situation it might be useful to google search 'stigma and mental illness'...though I would use the conditions name for better search results. The reason I recommend this is because I'm senseing there is a certain amount of difficulty communicating with your father for reasons relating to denial and fears around what this all means. Oftentimes families feel like acknowledging the problem means 1) there's a problem, 2) am I failing because it isn't getting better and 3) now I have to view my loved one differently and don't know how without it feeling bad.

The magical thing about naming the issue, identifying it, is that through acknowledgement come understanding. Through understanding comes knowledge and tools for possible improvement....but also the ability to view yourself and mother with less fear of the unknown. It isn't the life challenge that impacts us so much as how we make sense of it. So many emotional weights lesson with learning new ways to make sense out of this type of challenge.

So maybe before talking with your father you might learn more about what the 'mental illness' is, what role stigma is playing in your fears of talking with your father, and what potential health bebefits your mother will gain if she receives medical attention.

Mental illness is medical but the ways in which the person suffering acts and expresses feelings (or lack there of) seems psychological, which stirs things psychological in nature for loved ones, and the emotional weight takes charge...where as if she were exhibiting signs of diabetes (viewed as strictly biological) there wouldn't be such difficulty emotionally speaking about the condition. This response to most mental illnesses is normal so no one should feel bad. I'm just saying the sooner you can all view this situation as medical with medical information available, the sooner you will learn the best approach to take with your father. He might respond better to medical information as opposed to some of the other experiences that might trigger him to emotionally not listen.

With aging conditions such as altzheimers and dimentia, there are medications to slow the process and help the person suffering gain improvement in some area's. Not sure if this is what's happening, but there are benefits to intervening:)

I wish you and your family well:)

For mental illness spanning a lifetime, there are also effective treatments and what I said about stigma and emotional weight above is especially true. But also, it is still biological with psychological behaviors and medication could very well help. She might show positve signs of progress with the right team of psychiatrist and therapist. I'd also recommend family counseling to work through a lifetime of experiences you have had with your molther. Tough road you have all been on, but again, give yourself the gift of tools for how to make sense of it all. This will help YOU in YOUR deserve to recover:) you all do...don't put off happiness if at all possible!

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