My mother has Schizophrenia, how can I help her?
April 15, 2014 12:45 PM   Subscribe

For the last few years my mother has had symptoms of schizophrenia. She believes that an organization is following her, harassing her and screwing job opportunities. She is taken things to a extreme level and has called cops accusing individuals, family members, and others who don't even know her. What do I do?

My mother believes that an organization that includes of some our family members (from my father's side) along with other unknown individuals has been plotting to kill her and cause psychological damage. During the last 15 years she has left letters pointing to specific people saying that if something happens to her they maybe the ones to cause it. According to her, these people have unlimited resources, follow her everywhere (even to different countries), ruin her jobs opportunities and shout obscenities to her in the streets.

We know that this is not true and we've tried to follow up on some of the elements of her stories but all of them have proven to be false....Unfortunately this got out of hand recently when she stepped up the ante by calling cops on some unidentified people (who she said were following her). She has also started to accuse us on complying on the plot and has now turned the finger at my father saying that he would benefit from her death.

She sent me a very frightening text message, saying that if I don't help her I am part of the plot and will also turn me to the police. I am afraid on the effect this is having on my younger siblings (one of them told me he tries to have his bedroom door closed at all times).

My mother is highly functional in all other aspects but this. I think she is going through a particular difficult episode. She used to take meds that were prescribed by a psychiatrist but now she refuses to take them. I am not sure what to do? I don't live with my parents but now in fear of all that is going on in their household. How can I help her?

For references purposes, I am in New York City.
posted by The1andonly to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is your mother also in New York City?
posted by Jahaza at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2014

This has gone on too long, it will suck but I believe that she will benefit from a 72-hour hold and evaluation.

You're not going to get her to agree to go on her own, and involuntary commitment may be the only answer.

Your father needs to deal with this, sooner, rather than later.

Here is some information.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Jahasa, Yes, my mother also lives in NYC.
posted by The1andonly at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2014

I would contact NAMI for help.
posted by Jahaza at 12:56 PM on April 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

Woah. Before anyone takes steps towards a 72-hour psych hold and evaluation, it is critical to know the ages of the children in her home and if you, their father(s), or another relative are available to stay in the home with them. This would be a bad enough experience for your mum and hard enough on the kids without the kids also having to be taken into care, and avoiding that should be a priority.

Additionally, it would be good to know if English is your mother's first language, as outcomes of physch holds are highly dependent on that element.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:16 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding Ruthless Bunny. I used to work in a short term stay psychiatric facility and you see this very often. The best way to get her help is to intercede immediately. Call the police and explain the situation and that you would like her to be brought in to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. They will take her to the closest hospital with an EPS (emergency psych services) staff member (usually a social worker type). Given her history of mental illness and a sudden increase in paranoia/persecution delusions (as well as her recent refusal to take her medications) they will most likely admit her to the closest psychiatric unit (probably involuntarily, given her current state as your describe).

What happened in most cases that I dealt with, she will be admitted to the psych unit, and the doctor will help get her back to a baseline. More often than not, the patient (once re-stabilized on his/her meds) will switch over to a voluntary admission and stay between 3-5 days, depending on their personal action plan.

This can be a trying time for the family as well as for the patient. The first thing you/your father needs to do is get her into a safe place where she can get back to baseline. Your sibling has expressed fear living with your mother. This is not a time to second guess that, for your sibling and your mother's sake
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 1:17 PM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi guys, here is more information:

1) She is an immigrant, her first language is Spanish but quite able to express herself in English.

2) The siblings who live with her are 17 and 21 respectively. I suspect they shall be fine if she needed to go to a facility and maybe support it with visits.

My father, for what I believe are cultural reasons, is always hesitant of contacting formal channels of support. My mother, is extremely high functioning outside of this and another reason why this is so difficult for all of us.
posted by The1andonly at 1:43 PM on April 15, 2014

As the child of a mental health professional and as someone who has worked in that milieu, I really can't stress enough that your mother needs professional evaluation, because she's at the point where she's a danger to herself and others.

In New York, having people evaluate her in English and in Spanish shouldn't be a barrier for her to get the care she needs.

I suppose you could try to get her to voluntarily commit herself, but the nature of her delusions make me suspect that it would be a BAD idea.

It will be traumatic for her and your younger siblings. Perhaps the 21 year old can take the 17 year old to your place while you and your Dad have her taken to a psych hospital. It will be awful, I can't stress it enough. But doing nothing is even worse.

People in full blown delusions do terrible things, even to people whom they love and who love them.

If your mother had appendicitis, and was refusing to go to the hospital for treatment, wouldn't you force her?

Of course you would.

Get with your father, and get a plan together.

I'm sorry you have to deal with this, I wish your father would spare you kids from this, but he's not, and the situation is getting worse.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:51 PM on April 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

I would call 1-800-LIFENET and explain the situation to them, they should be able to connect you to the most appropriate services for your mother.
posted by fox problems at 4:56 PM on April 15, 2014

I'm also currently dealing with a schizophrenic close family member. I agree with those saying have her involuntarily committed. But don't expect everything to be better once you do this, because it will most likely just give you a few days of breathing room. (Also, try to get her to sign a release form allowing medical personnel to release information to a family member; otherwise they won't be able to tell you *anything* because of the HIPAA privacy rule.)

So next, get a copy of I am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help. It will teach you how to communicate with you mother in ways that are effective in getting her to accept help, using the LEAP method: Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner. I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through it and it's been very enlightening. The biggest problem in dealing with schizophrenics seems to be keeping them on their meds, and that's what this book is about.

I'm very sorry you're going through this, it's absolute hell. Please make sure to take care of yourself - eat right, get enough sleep, take time to meditate or otherwise clear your mind. You'll need to be thinking as clearly as possible to deal with this. Try to be objective about things and not react emotionally. Keep in mind that it's not your mother saying these things, it's the illness. Do your best to never lie to her - be evasive rather than lie, if necessary. It will be very important for her to feel she can trust her family.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have questions or just want to vent. It can be a very lonely thing to deal with because due to the stigma around schizophrenia, people don't talk about it much. But I've been fairly open about discussing it and have found a surprising number of people I know are dealing with it within their own family.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:43 AM on April 17, 2014

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