Getting help for people who don't want help
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Getting help for people who don't recognize they need help

Q: My mother in-law has all the symptoms of Bipolar, manic depression. She is has had several episodes of lashing out at family members and several other paranoid episodes. She had been put in a hospital in Topeka but my father in-law got her. In your opinion, what would be the safest way to get her in to a hospital to see the correct doctor so she gets the right tests done to help her. Because the problem we have is that she thinks we are all out to get her and we know she will never go to the right doctor to get help and we are afraid she will pack up and leave once she gets wind of any of this. She has done this in the past. Any suggestions? Thank you, Julie

Dear Julie --

This is an awful and unfortunately common circumstance.  Here are some steps.  First, see if you can reach your local National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (their national website may help direct you).  Read about them and you'll see there are people who've been through this before who may be able to help you.  Second, make sure you and all your friends vote for Gore, because his wife Tipper will work harder than anybody (already has; see her track record, including a recent presentation to NAMI) to help prevent this kind of problem -- as much as can be done while protecting our basic freedoms too (which is the tricky part of this).

Third, contact your local county mental health department and ask about getting a person involuntarily committed: each state has a separate version on how to do this.  Fourth, contact your family attorney if you have one and ask about getting a temporary guardianship, which is a separate route that works in some states.  Finally, re: finding "the correct doctor"; ah, tough one there.  If you live in a bigger city and there's a hospital you'd like to see used, ask the hospital for their list of psychiatrists with privileges at there: then see if she/he will let you pay privately to set up a game plan, including prior treatment guardianship.  If she/he is really experienced, you may also get some hints on how to get mother-in-law into that hospital in the first place (generally if you get as far as the ER there will be people there to help you, but unfortunately that's no guarantee). NAMI as an organization has more experience with this problem than any other source, so that's a must (some local groups are better than others; there is probably a state-wide group if your local chapter doesn't exist or isn't helpful).

Dr. Phelps

Published September, 2000

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