Getting Help for Someone You Love Shouldn’t Be This Hard

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I’ve been working on a new book project: How To Help a Loved One Who Doesn’t Want Help With Addiction or Mental Illness, co-authored with my friend and colleague, Interventionist Rich Whitman.

Someone asked me recently how we came up with the idea to write about this topic. Interventionists like Rich are in the business of getting people into treatment, often when they don’t want to go. Psychiatrists like me are answering questions on the side about how to get someone to get help. Our main job is to work with the folks who have agreed to come (or been mandated, in the case of some hospital stays).

In an overloaded mental healthcare system, it’s difficult to get help when you want it and know you need it. When you’re the parent, or spouse, or friend of someone who clearly needs help but doesn’t think they do, it becomes nearly impossible. Contact a doctor’s office and ask to talk to them about what steps to take to get your loved one into care, and most will turn you away. (My clinic gladly consults with families to answer questions and give guidance about how the mental healthcare system works and how to get someone help, but this is rare. This rarity isn’t entirely the professionals’ fault. Billing and coding issues, and insurance coverage are major barriers to offices providing family consultation).

The sad truth is that the system has broken down. There are a lot of sick folks who don’t think they’re sick and wouldn’t agree to see a doctor if one were available. They have symptoms of mania, or paranoia, or hallucinations. Families schedule appointments that are refused. People walk around with serious symptoms, and a lack of insight that they aren’t thinking clearly or acting like their former selves. When confronted with their loved one’s concerns, they blame relationship problems, “Me and my mom just don’t get along,” or “My wife is trying to make me look crazy so she can divorce me and take the kids.”

Getting help for someone you love shouldn’t be as hard as it is. You almost need to be an insider in the healthcare system to understand how it works. For now, Rich and I are trying to do what we can - beyond the services we offer day to day - by providing you with a step by step approach to get your loved one the help they need.

Posted on March 18, 2019 .