A 19 year old family member who was diagnosed with ADD as a teen and recently diagnosed as bipolar refuses to get professional help. He has had previous drug issues as well as law issues. no violence just dumb but it is straining our family, we never know what’s going to happen next. any suggestions?

A. This is a difficult problem. You cannot force people to do things they don’t want to do. You may be able to leverage him into treatment. By this I mean that your family bands together and informs him that he cannot live in your home if he’s unwilling to enter treatment. It may be the only way to convince him to participate in treatment.

Before getting to that point, there are other ideas to consider. Consult a family therapist. A family therapist can assist your family in determining the best way to intervene. Your family member may be willing to participate in treatment if other members of the family are also willing to participate in treatment.

Contact your local chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a nonprofit organization that provides mental health education, advocacy and support for both individuals who have a mental illness and those who have a family member with mental illness. Most communities offer free support groups for family members who are dealing with problems like you are facing.

It’s not unusual for individuals with a diagnosed mental illness to refuse to seek help. It may be that he doesn’t believe he’s mentally ill. It also could be that the stigma associated with having a mental illness is preventing him from seeking the proper help. In any event, it’s important that your family continues to encourage him to seek help. There is a limit as to what you can force him to do but you should try everything within your power to ensure that he receives treatment for his mental illness. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog