Our 25 year old daughter is suffering and we feel helpless. She has struggled for many years with alcohol abuse, drugs and relationships. Her reaction to stress has increased significantly over the last months; melt-downs, destroying property, threatening with knives, excessive drinking, DUI, and severe depression. She refuses to go to the hospital for treatment although she has seen a specialist before. She is more and more becoming a danger to her own safety and those around her. When stressed or emotional she finds people who are enablers but leave her stranded in the most dangerous of places within inner. She has current issues with violations of public drunkenness, DUI, and now assault. What are our options as parents to get her the medical treatment she needs and to protect her and others even though she refuses to recognize or accept the dangers.
Unfortunately, you have few options in this situation because she is an adult. Even if she were diagnosed with a mental illness, the way the laws are written in most states, she has the right to do what she wants, even if it’s destructive. If she’s a danger to herself or to others, she can be involuntarily hospitalized, for a short time, but as soon as she is no longer a danger to herself or to others, she will be released. Upon discharge, the hospital staff will recommend that she participate in treatment and provide her with referrals to local mental health professionals but they cannot force her to participate in treatment.
The other possibility is that she could end up incarcerated. Even when mental illness is present, many people are taken to a jail instead of to a treatment center. There are several reasons why this happens, but primarily it’s because there are fewer mental hospitals in communities than there used to be. It’s sometimes more feasible for police officers to take people to a jail than to a hospital. It is a sad state of affairs.
My recommendation is that you contact the local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) support group in your community or other support groups for parents dealing with similar issues. These groups can provide both emotional support and knowledge about the mental health system that might assist you with your daughter. You might also try visiting the Parents for Care and Treatment Advocacy Center websites. They provide important information concerning individuals with mental illness and treatment options for families caring for a loved one with a mental illness.
It is very difficult to watch someone you love engage in self-destructive behaviors and then realize there is nothing you can do to help. It is an immensely frustrating and helpless feeling. Generally speaking, there is little that you can do to help someone who does not want help. The mental health system has very few options for parents in these situations. Connecting with support groups might be one way to learn more about the local mental health system and potential ways it could be utilized to help your daughter. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle