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What To Do When Someone Refuses Mental Health Treatment

When someone you love refuses mental health treatment, it can feel like the situation is hopeless and you’re powerless to do anything, but that’s not the case. To help guide someone to residential mental health treatment, it’s essential to understand why someone may refuse treatment and what you can do to help.

Why Someone with Mental Health Illness Refuses Help

Someone who needs help with their mental health may refuse treatment for many reasons. They may not think they need help. There also is a stigma around treatment, including residential mental health treatment, that may make some people reluctant to go.

“There’s a desire to ‘just be normal,’ and a belief that having problems that necessitate a respite from daily life indicate abnormality, weakness, or brokenness,” states Ed Tilton, Regional Director of Integrative Life Network. 

Ed explained that fear driven by stigma is the most common reason someone refuses mental health treatment. He notes, “The thought of making one’s problems official brings with it the prospect of the debilitating shame associated with needing help.”

Other reasons someone may refuse mental health treatment include:

  • They feel bad about their situation and blame themselves
  • Treatment cost
  • Concerns about privacy
  • Negative views of treatment, including thinking it won’t help
  • Discomfort with talking about their mental health concerns 

Once you understand why your loved one refuses, you can better understand how to approach the situation. It also gives you insight into their logic, so you’ll be able to help them remove obstacles to seeking help. Then, you can offer solutions that don’t make your loved one uncomfortable. 

What to Do When Someone Refuses Mental Health Treatment

It can be frustrating when someone you love refuses mental health treatment, but practicing compassion and empathy is vital. If you need to, step back and calm down before speaking to your loved one. Do whatever puts your mind at ease — it could be a walk or spending time with your pet. When you feel calm and less frustrated, you’re ready to speak with your loved one.

When someone refuses mental health treatment, you’re not helpless. There are some steps you can take to help, including:

  • Education. Learn about mental illness and addiction. Information is power.
  • Careful Language. Be careful using the words “mental illness.” If they’re not ready to confront their mental health concerns, avoid those words at first.
  • Listening. Practice active listening. Help them feel heard by validating them and asking questions.
  • Asking Questions. Rather than trying to fix and give advice, ask questions and offer help. 
  • Avoiding Demands. Try not to tell them what to do, and don’t make or imply demands.
  • Expressing Concern. Let them know you are concerned and specifically how their issues affect you.
  • Seeking Solutions. Assist them in finding a solution that they’re comfortable with.
  • Encouraging. Gently encourage them to seek support.
  • Removing Stigma. Help remove the stigma of seeking mental health treatment through personal stories or sharing research. 
  • Offering Support. Offer to go with the person to the doctor or treatment center. 
  • Getting Support. Reach out to your own support system for help and guidance.
  • Teaching Coping. Especially if you’re dealing with a child, teach them coping skills such as positive self-talk.

It’s also acceptable to let the person know how their mental illness hurts you, Tilton noted. He stated, “It’s okay, and sometimes necessary, for loved ones to acknowledge their own woundedness incurred through the desperation of watching a person suffer with mental health issues.” 

Sometimes, your loved one just needs to know that their mental health issues affect you too to motivate them to seek help.

What to Do in an Emergency 

In case you ever experience a mental health emergency with your loved one, it’s essential to have an action plan. Often, during an emergency, our brain is clouded and confused. An action plan will give you concrete steps to take without wasting time considering what to do.

To prepare for a mental health emergency:

  • Know your nearest hospital. Write down the address.
  • Have numbers for emergency hotlines readily available
  • Document the person’s medication records, including what doses they’re taking.
  • Have contact details for the doctors and mental health professionals responsible for their treatment
  • Have access to insurance information
  • Know which family members or other caregivers to notify.
  • Plan a child care provider if you or your loved ones need it.

Store all this information together so you aren’t hunting it down during an emergency. An emergency is never easy, but being prepared can lessen the decision-making stress you’ll face, giving you clear, actionable steps. 

Another way to prepare for an emergency is to care for yourself starting now, so you can be in the right frame of mind if it happens. 

Ways to Care for Yourself

When it comes to helping a loved one, you also need to nurture yourself. The entire situation is incredibly stressful, and just like in an airplane emergency, when you have to put your oxygen mask on before you can help others, you have to take care of yourself before you can help someone else. 

Self-care may include:

  • Knowing your limits and setting necessary boundaries
  • Finding a support group full of people in the same situation
  • Taking care of your physical and mental health
  • Getting support from loved ones
  • Taking time to relax and do what you love
  • Seeking professional help if necessary

Tilton stated, “Loved ones have permission to seek help of their own if only to be assured that the problem is not their fault.” 

You can’t help others unless you’re okay, and sometimes you need a mental health professional to help you feel okay. 

How Integrative Life Center Can Help

When it comes to treatment for you or your loved one, there’s no one-size-fits-all. Treatment looks different for every person, depending on their mental illness and individual needs. At Integrative Life Center, we’re passionate about providing a kind, hopeful community that gives you the strength to heal. 

We offer residential mental health treatment, intensives, and out-patient treatment. To learn more about our treatment options, contact ILC today.

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