Can I Force My Father To Seek Help?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My father seems to be suffering from some mental illness that effects my whole family. As a kid (about 4-7 years old, as early as I can remember) he’s been this way. He would hurt my mom, my brother, sister, and I. My mother divorced him after he left us and went to another state to sleep with his sister-in-law.but I now still have to live with him partially, my siblings are of legal age. I’m 13 and have to live with him for another 5 years. I may not sound 13 years old, but trust me, I am. My father and the women he left for he is now married to. He yells at her kids for no reason. I feel like he is the reason I’m depressed. My dad made my step sister’s life so bad she tried to kill herself twice. My dad is an alcoholic, and regularly smokes pot. Is there any why I can legally make him find help for himself?

A. I’m sorry about your very distressing situation. I believe you may be correct about your father’s behavior contributing to your depression. It is especially concerning that your father is verbally abusive to the children in the home and that your sister has tried to kill herself.

Your inquiry is difficult to answer because you have asked a legal question. I would recommend calling child protective services and asking your question. They may be able to give you a more specific answer. They may also be able to evaluate the situation and determine if it is appropriate for you and your siblings to remain in the home. Below are a few resources that you may find helpful:

  • Child Protective Services in your area: 509-363-3333

  • 24-hour crisis information and referral service: 509-838-4428 or 1-877-678-4428 (TDD: 509-624-0004).

It may be difficult to legally force your father to seek help. You cannot force someone into treatment unless they are court-ordered to attend, or they are a danger to themselves or to others. You have little or no power over your father but there are other possibilities. Is there a trusted and responsible family member that you could live with? What about your mother? Is she aware of your father’s behavior and your sister’s suicide attempts? If not, notify her immediately. It is possible that she can use this information to gain full custody. It may help her make the case that you should not live with your father.

Another idea is to notify a social worker or another person associated with the custody case about your father’s behavior. You could also discuss this matter with a teacher, guidance counselor or principal at school.

If you feel that your father is a danger to you or any other family member, please do not hesitate to call the police. They can keep you safe from harm. This may be one way to force your father to seek help. If the police come to your home because of an incident involving your father, he may be arrested and the judge may order him to attend drug and alcohol treatment. You should also call the authorities immediately if you believe that your sister may harm herself.

Please write again if you have additional questions. I wish you well. Please take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Can I Force My Father To Seek Help?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/29/can-i-force-my-father-to-seek-help/