I live at home with my sister and parents. My sister never leaves the house and doesn’t ever visit any friends, although there are people who care about her and often ask me how she is doing. Basically she’s at home 24/7. She sleeps a lot and is sad often. She doesn’t answer text messages from anybody, not friends or even family. I have spoken to her because I am concerned about her mental health, and she knows she is sick. She thinks that she has depression, as well as a disorder somewhere between social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder. But she just won’t see a doctor. I have set up appointments for her only to fail in getting her to go- she just refuses and makes up an excuse like ‘I’m feeling tired’ or ‘I’m busy’. The few times she has set up appointments have been the same- she just doesn’t go. When she’s physically sick she will go, but won’t tell the doctor about her mental health because she feels embarrassed and awkward to tell a stranger about it. I can’t afford to have a doctor come to her, and neither can my parents. Even my parents don’t seem that concerned about her, they just complain that she has no job, even though that’s the least of the problems and a mere symptom of her mental health issues. I just don’t know what to do. It’s also hard because she seems to be dependent on me as I’m the only social contact she really has. When I went away on holiday for a month, she complained to me that she missed me and I needed to come home. I want to be there for her but it is so draining to be the person that she depends on, especially because I’m not a doctor, and she is not receiving any therapy at all. When she comes on outings with me, I end up not enjoying myself because she gets very anxious and I feel that I need to mediate that all the time. I also suffer from social anxiety on a smaller level, and it’s stressful to wonder what people might be thinking, if they notice her dependency and us both being anxious, and because of this, I prefer going alone. Please help, I don’t know how to help her! (age 22, from Australia)My Sister Needs Professional Help But Won’t See a Doctor
My Sister Needs Professional Help But Won’t See a Doctor
You are describing a difficult situation. It can be nearly impossible to get someone to seek help if they don’t want to or are afraid to for some reason, and I agree, it sounds like your sister needs help. There are several approaches that you could try. Having a family intervention (and perhaps even include some friends) might be helpful if you can do it in a loving way. You can look up how to do these online, but the gist of it is having a planned discussion with your loved one about your concerns and have treatment options lined up. They either need to agree to develop a plan and follow through or there may be consequences, such as, cutting her off financially or refusing to socialize with her unless she seeks help, etc.
Other options might include you or your parents going with her to the doctor, or if you all share a family doctor, you can preemptively inform them of your sister’s condition and your serious concerns. Perhaps the physician can then address it the next time your sister goes for something medically related.
You can also reach out to your local community mental health center and seek guidance from them. Perhaps they have therapists who do home based counseling. Or you can see if there are any support groups in your area for depression and anxiety and offer to go with your sister to ease her anxiety. Here’s a link to a website in your country that may be of assistance as well: http://www.mifa.org.au/index.php/en/
Ultimately your sister will have to be the one to seek treatment and unfortunately she may put this off until her life becomes unbearable otherwise. However, it does not mean that yours has to be unbearable too. You need to live your own life and let her live hers.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts