How can I help my friend get help for suspected mental illness?
January 10, 2013 1:05 PM Subscribe
I'm sure that my friend (who lives cross-country) is dealing with un-diagnosed untreated mental illness. I'm 99% sure it's bipolar disorder, based on lots of information and evidence. I don't want this thread to be about diagnosing, but rather about how to help (I think we can agree that the steps I should take to help would be largely the same regardless of what he's grappling with, right?).
posted by anonymous to human relations (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
He's desperately unhappy and freely admits this to me -- detailing many things that make him angry and anguished in different phases of his life (relationship with parents, relationship with longtime girlfriend, his job, etc).
To me (having dealt with depression myself) it's obvious that this underlying issue is causing or at least exacerbating all of these things he's dealing with. I've said this to him many times, and pointed out that even if he gets away from all these problems (ie breaks up with girlfriend, quits job, moves out, etc) that the underlying issue will remain and eventually negatively affect his future life as well -- that these things don't just go away (and that the very fact that he wants to sort of run away from everything is a pretty good indicator that something's up). Sometimes he agrees with me on this and sometimes he doesn't.
He's 32 and estimates he's been dealing with this for at least 8 or 10 years. He has a family history of mental illness. For a long time he self-medicated with alcohol, but stopped drinking a few years back. I don't know how he self-medicates/deals with things now and I worry because it seems like things are deteriorating lately (to the point where I'm making this post).
We've had many emotional conversations where one day he'll agree that he needs help or treatment and then the next day he'll deny it. We'll set up a plan or timetable to work on planning stuff out and then it will fall through. I'll offer help and he'll accept it and then turn it down later. He's even commented to me how he's sabotaging himself and this getting-help process. Mental illness has a strong stigma for him (I think due to family history) and he will go on about how dealing with this means admitting that he's broken or powerless and the idea makes him distraught.
He's an extremely bright and logical guy and definitely realizes that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. But the logic seems to fall apart whenever it comes to taking concrete steps.
Why can he admit that he needs help and then not get help? How can I best support and help him from a distance? I'm happy to go and be with him if it would help, as I have a flexible job and can travel. General as well as concrete recommendations/steps, resources I can look at, and any advice at all would be really appreciated! Have any of you gone through a similar situation? Am I missing something obvious? Thank you so much for your time and willingness to share!
Please feel free to email. Throwaway email: helpmehelpmyfriend @ gmail.com