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Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5430
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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What can I do to help my sister who is in need of a mental

Customer Question

What can I do to help my sister who is in need of a mental health evaluation because no one can figure out what is going on with her. She has taken a lot of prescription meds over the years without the supervision of a doctor and for quite some time now she has believed she has tiny bugs that she has to "cure". She zones out when I visit, she disappears for periods of time like if we go to dinner she will say she forgot her jacket in the car and won't come back for thirty minutes or more and will not understand why I think it is strange. I walked in on her in a restaurant bathroom once and watched her compulsively washing her whole arms while she was crying her eyes out. She had been in there for 20 minutes.

The entire family has seen bizarre behaviors including her attempts at "curing" the bugs that are biting her by going online and researching cures and are begging me to do something because I am the only family member, besides her husband and two children, that lives in the same state. Recently, I went over to her house to convince her to get counseling for her bizarre behaviors and she proceeded to dominate the entire conversation by telling me that her husband has been poisoning her for the last 5 years and that is why she has all her problems. It's now not the bugs, it is her husband poisoning her. And now she wants to run with the kids back home to another state. She also says that my cousin's child who is autistic was also poisoned too by her father, who is friends with my sister's husband, and now it is my sister's mission to "save" her.

I didn't want to tell my sister that I didn't believe her because the vibe I got from her was that she would cut off anyone who sided with her husband, who she thinks is trying to kill her and manipulate the family into thinking he's the victim. So I gave her the information about the counselor and told her that with the strain of everything she needs to call them and that I would pay for it. And that she needs to go to the police. I was hoping that if she did one or the other that they would be able to see she is disturbed and get her help. But she did neither. Which is not surprising because my sister has a great distrust of those in authority.

So my burden now is how to get her help? We have a law in Florida called the Baker Act but she doesn't quite fit the criteria. And I think it would be a lot better if she went voluntarily. What can I do at this point?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Hello I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like your sister might have paranoia. In that case, she might be unable to recognize that what she is saying is unrealistic. To someone with paranoia, they feel others are not able to understand them and are against them when they do not agree with what they say.

Because of your sister's lack of insight, it might be very difficult to get her to cooperate with seeing someone who can help her. It is very common for someone with her type of symptoms to either refuse treatment (the distrust of authority is commonplace) or start treatment to only discontinue it when they feel they are better. And because your sister mistrusts authority she is going to avoid the very people who can help her.

If you can, try to see if your sister is willing to see her own doctor. Sometimes a person will talk to their doctor when they refuse to talk to a therapist or psychiatrist, even if the doctor is an authority figure. If she is willing to see her doctor, call ahead before her appointment to let the doctor know what is going on. He or she may not be able to share anything with you, but you can certainly tell them what you are witnessing with your sister and they can address it with her. They can also prescribe medications that may help address your sister's paranoia. If your sister will not see her doctor, try contacting him/her anyway to report what you are seeing and to ask for any assistance they can offer.

You can also enlist the help of friends or other family members. Sometimes a person will listen to someone from outside of their immediate family because they are not so easy to dismiss. And another family member she trusts might be able to get her to see she needs to talk to someone.

Here are some other resources to help you with ideas on how to help your sister:

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/factsheets/families-friends-help

I Am Not Sick I Don't Need Help: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment-Xavier Amador.

Watch for signs of her health going downhill or any signs of hurting herself or threats to hurt others. If you feel your sister is a threat to herself or others at any time, you can contact your local ER to request to file a 302. A 302 is an involuntary commitment that forces your sister to get an evaluation at the hospital. If the doctor who sees your sister feels she is in any danger, they will admit her and provide the care she needs.

Most of all, offer your support. Be there as much as you can for your sister. Sometimes that is what makes the most difference in helping her to change and get the help she needs.

I hope this has helped you,
Kate
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5430
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The problem is that here in the Tampa Bay area, we have a lot of "pill mills". Several of the doctors I have taken her to or she has seen in the past have since been arrested for operating illegal pill mills. I'm not sure about the doctor she is seeing, I don't even know his name. But if she's not willing to see the doctor I gave her the information for maybe I can get his information from her and see if he is a legitimate doctor that can help.

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Oh that is awful, especially when you are trying to get help for your sister and you run into something like that. Hopefully the doctor you were thinking of for her might be legitimate as you said. You may also want to try calling the United Way and the Medical association for recommendations. The United Way lists all available resources for services in your area. They may be able to help. You can also check with your doctor to see if he/she recommends someone for your sister. It is not easy to care for someone that is in your sister's situation. Don't forget to take care of yourself too!

Kate
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Also, is it ok to agree with her paranoia for the moment in order to get her to a doctor? I was trying to tell her she needed to see a doctor or a police officer because of the poisoning but then I was wondering if that helps if I am basically feeding into her fantasy?

Expert:  Kate McCoy, M.Ed, NBCC, LPC replied 1 year ago.
Yes absolutely. Your basic goal is to get her the help she needs. And in order to do that, you sometimes need to go along with what she is saying. You cannot cause her to be more paranoid by doing that. She is going to already be set in what she believes whether or not anyone agrees or disagrees. And anyone who disagrees will only agitate her. So going along with it in order to get her help is just fine to do. What she has is probably caused by a chemical imbalance which will only be affected by medications and not by what anyone says to her.

Kate

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