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Forcing Someone To Get Help With Mental Health

Mental Health Conditions

Mental health issues can have an affect not just the person with them but those around them too. Witnessing a loved one struggle with their mental health can be extremely upsetting leaving you feel helpless, if they refuse help it can become exhausting and even infuriating. Nobody wants to see someone they love suffer, or do they want to suffer in turn as the mental health issue continues.

Unless someone is eligible for sectioning or under the age of 18, they can't be forced to undergo treatment. This can be difficult for family and friends, particularly if the mental health problem has been worsening over several years. If you do have a loved one who is refusing to get help, you may feel powerless, but there are things you can do to encourage them.

Getting Sectioned

Sectioning is when someone is detained in hospital or a mental health facility under the Mental Health Act 2007. Someone can only be sectioned if they meet certain criteria:

Their mental health problem is so severe that they need urgent assessment and treatment.

They are a danger to themselves or others due to their mental health.

Getting someone sectioned is an extreme measure and it takes three mental health professionals to assess if it’s necessary. Examples of meeting the criteria might be that your loved one has attempted suicide, they're hearing voices that tell them to harm others or has starved themselves to a point where their body isn’t functioning properly and they are at serious risk of a heart attack.

Mental Health

Encouragement To Get Help

You must be patient with people about their mental health and recognise that it is an illness, however frustrating or upsetting their behaviours may be.

Many people may say things like “you should'nt put up with that”, but until they have lived in your situation they can't understand what it’s like. Screaming and shouting at your loved one will only make them stressed, which in turn can worsen their thoughts or behaviours. Patience, empathy and understanding are key.

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Talk to them about it

Having a sit-down conversation with your loved one may be the best way forward. This is dependent on the individual though, and they may feel embarrassed or even attacked if you do this. If they are in denial about their problem, despite you telling them about your concerns for their mental health, this approach will probably do more harm than good.

If you need to take a more subtle approach, time and kindness are essential. A slow and steady approach, with short chats dropped in here and there, can give them time to reflect on what you have said. They need to know that you don’t blame or judge them for having a mental health problem, it’s just something that’s happened to them, as illnesses do.

Common types of mental health conditions

  • Anxiety disorder, including social anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, PTSD and phobias

  • Depression, including bipolar disorder, SAD and postnatal depression

  • Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, compulsive and binge eating disorder and orthorexia

  • Personality disorders including narcissistic personality disorder and dependent personality disorder

  • Schizophrenia, including paranoid schizophrenia

See Things From Their Perspective

Take some time to think about how your loved one’s mental health issue affects them and what it’s like for them to live with it. For example, if they have OCD, it may seem ridiculous to you that they won’t touch things for fear of germs, but imagine how suffocating it must be to live with that fear. Remember that however difficult this is for you, it far more difficult for them.

Learn what triggers their behaviours and try to adapt your actions to make things easier on them. There is a difference between supporting or indulging their behaviours and making an effort to show that you understand. If they need to count to ten before they enter a room then let them get on with it, if you judge them for it then the compulsion will still be there, along with added stress that may make things worse.

Google is always a great resource for understanding why they feel the way they do. You should visit websites about their condition to learn more about it, also watch videos by people who’ve had the same condition and recovered. Knowing that you understand and are on their side can really help your loved one have the confidence to seek help.

How Does Their Mental Health Affect You?

While your loved one’s overall health and quality of life should be the reason that you want them to get them help, they may not realise how their issues affect those around them. Mental health conditions can be all consuming for the person and they might believe it’s their problem alone. This attitude can make you feel like you’re less important to them than their fears or compulsions.

Be honest with them about how their condition affects you. This isn’t a blame game, but one open conversation could make all the difference and give them perspective of the magnitude of the situation.

Mental Health

What If They Refuse Help

For individual reasons, some people might never seek help for their mental health problems. If this is the case, you need to look after yourself. If you can continue to live with their condition and manage your interaction with it in a healthy way then thats fine, but sometimes it is in your best interest to distance yourself from it. Whether that’s by not talking to them about the problem anymore, getting support yourself with how to live with it or even ending a romantic relationship.

Every person with a mental health condition is individual, as is how they experience it and as is your relationship with them. If you’ve tried everything in your power to help them and they still refuse, it may be time to stop trying and accept the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to force somebody to seek treatment for the mental health?

In the UK, if somebody does not meet the criteria to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act 2007, no one can force them to seek help for a mental health issue. This is different for children under the age of 18, but adults have the right not to be treated if they choose not to.

How can I encourage them to seek help?

You can encourage somebody to seek help for their mental health with empathy, patience and talking to them honestly about your concerns. It may take years for somebody to accept that they need to see a doctor and do so, or they may never seek help at all.

What are the guidelines for sectioning?

To qualify for sectioning, a person must either be an immediate danger to themselves or others due to their mental health condition, or their condition is so severe that they need urgent medical treatment. They will be visited by three medical professionals who will assess them and decide if they need to be sectioned.

What if their mental health issue is detrimental to me?

Living with the behaviours of someone with a mental health condition who won’t seek help can be very stressful. You can usually work out a way for it not to affect your relationship with them too badly. If it's damaging your mental health, you can seek help yourself. A medical professional can advise on how to communicate with your loved one and protect your own mental health in a way that can benefit you both.

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