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My Dad Won’t Let My Sister Get Help

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From the U.S.: My sister and I were physically and emotionally abused and emotionally neglected by our mom when we were little. (It isn’t still happening. My sister has had no contact with our mom since she was nine.) For me, it caused problems that eventually led to severe depression and several suicide attempts.

My dad wouldn’t get me help until the people at the hospital said he had to because he thinks mental illnesses go away when the thing that caused them in the first place is gone. I got better because I came to live with my grandparents who found me an amazing therapist.

But my sister (who is 17 years old) still lives with our dad. My sister has high-functioning autism (which we consider a difference, not a disability) and used to have a bunch of behavioral problems caused by the abuse and she was bullied a lot both by students and teachers when she was still going to school. She now has social anxiety disorder and probably other problems that I’m not aware of because I hardly ever see her.

She hasn’t been diagnosed because Dad won’t do anything, but there is definitely a problem and she needs help. When I talked to Dad about it, he said that he wasn’t getting my sister help because she wouldn’t accept it. But yesterday my sister and I were texting (she’s terrified of phone and video calls) and she told me that she’s ASKED for help but Dad says no because he thinks it’ll just go away if she’s removed from the source of the problem!

Well, she switched to home schooling because of how much the teachers mistreated her and it’s actually gotten WORSE since then. She’s afraid to talk to her best friend and she’s stopped doing her schoolwork.

Is there anything I can do to convince our dad that my sister needs help? And if I can’t convince him, is there some way I can help my sister myself? By the way, my dad has high-functioning autism.

My Dad Won’t Let My Sister Get Help

Answered by on -


What a difficult, difficult situation. If your dad has high-functioning autism, it will be difficult to convince him she needs help since he has a “rule” that help isn’t needed when the situation changes. As you pointed out, he got you help only when he was told by someone else that you needed it. He didn’t come to that conclusion on his own. For that reason, I think you probably need to find a way to get another adult he respects to tell him what to do about your sister.

I suggest you talk to your therapist about inviting your sister for a visit to your grandparents and having her go to therapy with you as part of some sibling sessions. It’s possible that the therapist will then be able (with your sister’s and your permission) to invite your dad in to participate. She can inform him of her impressions and perhaps can impress upon him that your sister needs care.

Meanwhile, please look into whether there is a private school or residential program for people with autism that can offer your sister the support and practical help she needs. I’m concerned that being home-schooled is increasing her isolation. She won’t learn how to handle other people’s mean behavior by removing herself from it. She won’t find friends in the house. You could contact the school’s special education department to see what they suggest. Contact an educational advocate to see if the school is obligated to fund an alternative approach to her education.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

My Dad Won’t Let My Sister Get Help

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). My Dad Won’t Let My Sister Get Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 28 Aug 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.