Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Ouest-de-l’Île-de-Montréal
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Ask the expert
Family and friends

How can I help my sister who has true psychological and personal problems, but refuses to get help?

There are really only two options. In Quebec, and in many countries, you cannot force someone to be evaluated or treated against her will unless there is an imminent threat to her life or to someone else’s. If this is the case, the first thing to do is go to the courthouse and ask for a psychiatric evaluation. They will help you with the necessary forms and procedures.

Sometimes the person threatens a neighbour or the police. In such cases he or she is taken to emergency for an evaluation without the family having to get involved.

Needless to say, this is not what anyone wants. A far simpler solution (second option) would be to maintain lines of communication with your sister. At some point she might acknowledge that things aren’t going well. This is when you can offer to bring her to the hospital or a community organisation. If she goes on her own accord she is far more likely to comply with treatment.

-Camillo Zacchia, Ph.D., in response to a comment on his blog Psychospeak with Dr. Z, 2013

How do parents talk openly about their teenager who has a mental illness?

It depends on who they would be speaking to and why. For example, if they are speaking to other people to gain knowledge about their children or find support, they could say, “My son or daughter has a mental health issue and it is manifesting in this way.” They could couch what they say in terms of recovery and ask others, “What have you done to recover? What is your experience and knowledge of recovery?”

The parents should focus on how they can take action instead of focusing on negative reactions such as “That’s terrible.” They should see the condition in practical terms, in the same way as a physical health problem. What do you do if you break your arm? You go to the doctor and get the best advice on how to carry on with your normal activities.
-Janina Komaroff, Research Assistant, Douglas Institute, Mini-Psych School 2012

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