It’s not clear whether she has schizophrenia but she does have symptoms of a psychosis. It can be immensely difficult to convince someone who is psychotic to seek help. As you have noted, she is paranoid. She thinks people are attempting to harm her. She has difficulty trusting even the closest members of her family. Many people describe the experience of psychosis as being horrific and frightening.
You cannot force her to seek treatment but you should encourage her to do so. Utilize the help of your family. Perhaps if your family banded together and suggested that she seek help, she may be willing. It’s unlikely, but it’s worth a try.
If she will not comply, then you may have to involve mental health professionals or the local crisis team. In your community, there may be a local crisis team who can evaluate your sister in her home. If they feel that she is a danger to herself or others, or is in grave danger of decompensating to the point where she can’t care for herself, they may be able to force her into the hospital temporarily. The hospital can keep her safe, evaluate her condition and provide her with the appropriate treatment and medication.
In the meantime, I would encourage you to contact the local National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) organization. Virtually every community has a NAMI organization. You can call their local offices, discuss her case and ask for advice or a referral.
I would also urge you to call the doctor who is prescribing your sister’s medication. He or she may not be able to provide you with information about her case, but there’s no law against you reporting her symptoms. Perhaps her doctor and her treatment team may be able to provide you with assistance in this situation.
Undoubtedly, you’re faced with a difficult situation. The situation you have described, where someone is actively psychotic but refuses to seek help, is one that many families face on a regular basis. Utilize the help and support of NAMI, the local mental health crisis team, her prescribing doctor and the local emergency room if necessary. I hope this situation can be resolved successfully. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog