My wife and I have been married for almost 2 years. In that time she has been diagnosed with multiple severe medical issues. I have been beside her and been forced to watch as she slides farther into depression. Multiple times I have tried to get her to set an appointment for counseling, even giving her a list of therapists so that she can choose her own. She has not done this and I cannot seem to get her interested in seeking help. She has had bouts of suicidal thoughts and eventually I have been able to bring her out of that. However she has not been able to beat the depression. It is taking its toll on both of us and I don’t know how to help any more. Short of seeking a court order to have her forced into treatment, what can I do? Forcing her into treatment will be the end of our marriage, but if it helps her, then that is the price I will pay. Please help me with some guidance if possible. Thank you.Wife Depressed & Refuses Treatment
Wife Depressed & Refuses Treatment
You are obviously in a difficult predicament. The most difficult aspect of your situation is that you can’t force someone into treatment, except on rare occasions and then only when a person is imminently homicidal or suicidal. On those occasions, an involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital is possible. Hospitalization stay length varies but on average, it only lasts three to seven days. Upon discharge, the patient is provided with an aftercare plan that typically includes a recommendation for outpatient care. If a patient chooses not to follow the outpatient treatment plan, then short of them being suicidal or homicidal again, they likely cannot be forced into treatment. That is the harsh reality of the American mental health system.
You’ve tried to convince your wife to seek treatment but she refuses. She would be eligible for involuntary commitment if she posed an imminent danger to herself or to others but if she does not, then there is little you can do to force her into treatment.
It will be very difficult to help your wife if she is resistant to treatment. Our laws say you can’t force her to do something that she doesn’t want to do.
Another way to approach this might be to suggest that she try family therapy or couples therapy instead of individual therapy. If she were not the sole focus of the therapy, then she might be willing to participate in treatment. It’s worth trying.
Try your best to convince her to participate in treatment. If she continues to refuse your help, then realize that you have done all you can. This type of situation is not unique to you; it is virtually impossible to force someone into receiving mental health treatment if they don’t want to.
Finally, you may want to try seeking support from organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Treatment Before Tragedy. They might be able to provide you with social support and guidance during this difficult time. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle