How can I help a friend with severe mental illness?
May 28, 2013 4:40 PM Subscribe
I don't know what to say to her anymore.
posted by anonymous to human relations (5 answers total)
"Sasha" is in her mid-fifties. She has had severe depression, mood swings, anger issues, anxiety attacks, hoarding, and PTSD for her entire adult life. She is also one of the smartest, most creative and fun people I have ever met. She's awesome.
She's also been a mentor to me. She taught me an obscure and hard-to-learn skill for which I am well-suited, and I now support myself with this skill.
In the decade that we have been very close friends, her mental health has been in a decline. When we met, she had all of the conditions I list above, but she also had a job and an apartment and a very full life. However, she never got more than minimal treatment for her mental health conditions. By "minimal treatment," I mean she had an absent doctor who prescribed her antidepressants and benzos with which she essentially self-medicated, though I don't think she's addicted to them per se. She takes the prescribed dose or maybe one extra pill.
She can no longer work. She hasn't had a job for maybe four years. She has federal disability money now, which is good. But her depression has occasionally merged into psychosis. She doesn't get out of bed and now she is gradually stopping eating. This is part of a pattern that has happened several times over the last few years, and becoming more frequent. Eventually she becomes suicidal or so psychotic or dehydrated that she has to go to an ER. Usually I tell her that she needs to go to the ER for about a week before she actually goes. She will stay in a psych ward for a few weeks and they will get her stable enough to send home, but not exactly hale and hearty. When she's home, she goes into a gradual decline again.
She is part of the public health care system now, which is better than average in our state (Massachusetts). She sees a doctor once a month and is on various meds that she takes irregularly and clearly aren't working anyway. I urge her to call him more and he doesn't return her calls. She could get another doctor, but she doesn't listen to me when I tell her she needs to hound her medical people to get the treatment she needs. I don't think she is being an effective advocate for herself. I don't think she can be.
She doesn't have any family that are in the picture, or who would be helpful or sympathetic if they were in the picture. I am essentially the first line of defense in her life, and I feel totally helpless. I no longer know what to say and she doesn't really listen to most of what I say anyway. We can still talk about TV shows and that sort of thing and have a good time. Should I just stick to that? Is there anything else I can do?
This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- LobsterMitten