Your mother isn’t well. She needs help to save her from herself. Strongly consider closing her social media and email accounts. That might protect her from being harmed by predators on the Internet. You might also consider reporting the threatening messages to the police. They may be able to help.
You mentioned that she refuses to provide information to you about her therapist. Does anyone else have that information? If possible, inform her therapist about your concerns. Privacy laws would prevent a therapist from divulging personal information about your mother, but there is no law against you providing information to her therapist. It’s worth a try.
Many communities have local support groups for family members who are dealing with similar issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Parents For Care are two groups that come to mind. These organizations assist people who are caring for loved ones with serious mental illnesses. Visit their websites to learn more about what they do.
Another potential option to consider is family therapy. Your mother might be open to that option. It’s important that you and your family are “on the same page” regarding your mother. For instance, no one should be giving her money because she spends it irresponsibly. A family therapist could provide more specific guidance about how your family should best deal with your mother.
The unfortunate reality is that you have very little power to force your mother into therapy. You can give your mother advice and try to guide her into doing the right things but she is free to reject your advice. She could benefit from more intensive treatment, but she cannot be forced to participate in treatment if she doesn’t want to, even when actively symptomatic. She can be committed to a psychiatric hospital for short-term treatment, if she poses a danger to herself or to others, or if she is gravely disabled and unable to care for herself, but short of these extremes she cannot be forced into receiving help. That is the nature of our mental health system and as a result, many people never receive the appropriate treatment.
As a family member, it is frustrating that there is often so little that can be done to help someone we love. Connecting with a family therapist, and with other people who are dealing with similar issues, will give you the best chance to help your mother. If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to write again. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle