General Question

kneesox's avatar

Do you tell someone who's mentally ill that they're mentally ill?

Asked by kneesox (4593points) December 28th, 2021

Or do you just leave them to wonder why you’re treating them a certain way—such as not believing their stories or taking their bizarre notions seriously—and not wanting to deal with them when they’re all in a spin or acting freaky?

Maybe that’s a professional’s job, not a matter for lay judgment, but what if they won’t see a professional?

Amateur attempts to help can do damage, as well as resulting in a lot of stress and frustration. But you can’t just live with a crazy person and try to act as if everything’s normal, right?—because unpredictability, volatility, and even the risk of personal harm can come into that picture.

And it can just tear a person apart to see a loved one go through the anguish and pain, knowing they can’t really help at all.

Practically speaking, what do you do when someone you care about is off balance mentally and you have essentially no power or influence over them, or if you do, you don’t know how to use it?

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15 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

No. They probably already know. I finally do set boundaries now. Before I judge someone I try to check if my assertions come from being too judgemental.

I would however like to be given a choice to fix my realtionship Instead of being ghosted.

I would gladly spend $200 a month for therapy instead of having a friend turn their back on me

A friend told me to see a psychologist 20 years ago, when I told them that I was being groped by my father, and I took it as a cold insult, and told them, too F off, on a chat room. They called the cops on me and my life fell apart.

seawulf575's avatar

Dad had issues when I was growing up. Paranoia mainly, but I suspect there was more there. Mom tried telling him he needed help and it just made him distrust her…she was working with them. We (mom, bro and me) went to a psychologist to see if there was anything that could be done. Dad refused to go because “there was nothing wrong with him”. Mom finally got him to go. The psychologist gave him some drugs, but dad still refused to admit anything was wrong with him. The pills basically went untouched.

Interestingly, he didn’t trust mom (because she voiced the view he needed help) and he fought with my older brother (who flat out called him nuts…bro was not very compassionate), but he would talk to me. I listened when he would talk and asked questions for clarification when he would say something off the wall.

But in the end, there are dozens of ways to tell a person they are mentally ill. Unless they consider it possible, telling them will do no good. They have to admit it and want to get better. It is, literally, Heller’s Catch 22. You can avoid bad issues if you are mentally ill. But you have to admit you are mentally ill to avoid them. And the mere act of admitting you are mentally ill proves you are not.

Smashley's avatar

Give love and empathy.

Usually, a person with a mental health issue will be aware of it on some level, but has been drifting between episodes, just trying to survive, for years. In cases when a person resists suggestions of treatment, they have usually developed routines and identity around avoiding treatment, which has led to the mental health crisis you are observing.

I’ve found that people with depression or something like bipolar disorder are usually open to to the idea of treatment when they find themselves at their lowest. They know something is up, but they tend towards irrational optimism when not on a down cycle. In these cases, and offer like “can I look into getting an appointment for you?” might be the thing. Down people rarely have the energy to make calls or schedule things.

People experiencing psychosis or paranoia are usually more difficult, as their perceptions of reality can be wildly out of touch. This can undermine every attempt to help, and can sometimes mean involuntary treatment is best, but usually only in the most extreme cases.

In all cases, you are never going to goad or argue a person into getting help. When that defensive wall goes up, you can’t break it down with argument. They need to feel love and trust before they can hear you, and a lot of the loving things people do for the mentally ill are interpreted as antagonism, bullying and conspiracy.

canidmajor's avatar

This site has been enormously helpful to me, and there may be a forum or area that might help you, it’s worth taking a look through it.
Good luck with this.

cookieman's avatar

As stated above, it depends on the type of mental health issue.

My grandfather was paranoid schizophrenic. Refused treatment, couldn’t hold down a job, physically abused my grandmother. All attempts to get him help were met with anger and mistrust. Everyone else was the problem. After many years of dealing with this, my grandmother finally left him. He eventually ended up homeless and beaten to death under a bridge.

My mother was diagnosed with narcosistic personality disorder. Also refused treatment, could be violent, unpredictable – lied about everything. All attempts to help her were met with anger and mistrust. Everyone was out to get her. After dad died, I tried working with her. She told me to fuck off and never spoke to me again.

It is an impossible and heartbreaking situation to have someone in your life whom you love who has a condition that makes it impossible to love them without losing yourself in the process.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I know something about this issue. You do not diagnose them even to yourself. You concentrate on their behavior and set extremely firm boundaries. The person must know there are consequences to crossing the boundaries. You must be willing to follow through on the restrictions you have stated you will impose if the boundaries are crossed. This is the difficult part. Even if it means cutting the person out of your life, you must follow through. Sometimes love is grotesquely painful that way. Enabling them will cause more harm than restricting access to you and your resources.

I talk to families on a weekly basis experiencing this. The pain is horrendous. I am very sorry to say I know what you’re going through and pray you will get relief.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I choose to love them through it, then when they are rational to have an honest conversation about it.
But I do pay a price for less firm boundaries out of love and compassion.

Diagnosing someone is a professional’s job, and often comes with medication, so that’s not something I would do as a lay person.

Turning my back on someone with chronic depression or having a manic episode is just not something I can do easily. But if violent, that’s a different situation.
Best of luck.

kritiper's avatar

It would be better for a professional to do it. But it doesn’t meant the person in question would believe it.

jca2's avatar

There are many different types of mental illnesses so it’s impossible to generalize and give one blanket solution, here or anywhere. A mentally ill person may be anything from mildly depressed to violent or catatonic.

If the person has mild symptoms or us open to discussing it, a friend or trusted family member can bring up the topic and suggest professional help. If the person has severe symptoms or is not open to discussing it, friends and family have take steps that are appropriate for them and the circumstances.

Nobody here or anywhere can offer a one-size-fits-all solution because each person and each situation is different, depending on the illness and the severity.

LostInParadise's avatar

You should have a quiet talk with the person and point out what behavior they have that you are concerned about. There is not much point in directly saying that they are mentally ill. If they have not realized that already, there is not anything that you can do to convince them otherwise.

Chestnut's avatar

We used to all the time, was quite normal.

raum's avatar

I agree with @Hawaii_Jake.
Don’t diagnose them.

If possible, gently encourage them to get into therapy. But more importantly, set clear and firm personal boundaries.

Good luck!

cookieman's avatar

I agree not to diagnose them. Most of us are not qualified for that.

My experience with someone who was diagnosed, by a professional, was that they rejected the diagnosis and refused treatment.

Simply focusing on the behavior and saying things like “I really wish you would be more truthful with me” was always met with some version of “Fuck you. Don’t tell me what to do.”

Sometimes, she would just flat out deny that something happened, even if multiple people were there to witness it.

I could never figure out how to handle that behavior.

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snowberry's avatar

I was viewed as “mentally I’ll” for decades by people who were actually abusing me. When I got away from my abusers I discovered I wasn’t mentally I’ll at all!

I have little patience for nonsense like this.

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