How to Help a Bipolar Schizophrenic

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My mother has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and severe bi-polarism for several years. Since my dad divorced her she has ran through all the money she was awarded. She has been living with my grandparents who can no longer handle the stress and cannot financially support her, they also have recently moved into a assisted living center. With her last few dollars my mother has come back to my hometown wishing to bring our family back together. She is extremely difficult to be around and she is not willing to work to support herself. With money short and hotel bills adding up she is soon to be homeless. She will not commit herself and she will not accept help, believing that we are trying to control her. Also local laws prevent anyone from involuntarily committing her. It has been a very difficult personal struggle for me and my family, and have no idea what we can do. Are there options out there-I feel like I have tried all of them. It is difficult to explain the many efforts in such few words. Thanks.

A. I have several recommendations. Have you tried family therapy? Family therapy is different than individual therapy because all parties come together in a group to try to work through their problems with each other. If other family members would consider attending therapy, and if the focus was not solely on your mother, she may be open to such an idea.

You said that “local laws prevent anyone from involuntarily committing her.” That may not be true. Though laws vary state to state, generally an individual can be involuntarily committed when they are a danger to themselves or to others or they are deemed to be “gravely disabled” and unable to care for themselves. Your mother may fall into the latter category, especially if she is about to become homeless.

Consider consulting an attorney about having your mother declared incompetent. This is done in a court of law. If she is deemed incompetent, then you (or another chosen party) would become her legal guardian. Legal guardians make decisions about housing, treatment, financial needs, and other legal responsibilities that are in the best interest of the patient. Being mentally ill or making foolish decisions is not enough for someone to be declared incompetent. Generally, there must be evidence that an individual lacks the capacity to make sound decisions in multiple domains of their life because of their chronic and severe mental illness. That may be your best option.

To assist you in knowing how to proceed with this challenging issue, consult the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). You may also want to consult the Treatment Advocacy Center to better understand your legal options. You may have more options than you realize. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). How to Help a Bipolar Schizophrenic. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/08/how-to-help-a-bipolar-schizophrenic/

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