Attempting to help someone when your help is unwanted is a fine line to walk. On one hand, they likely prefer to be left alone, and any rebuff is bound to sting. On the other hand, they may be in desperate need of help, and refusing to accept it.
There aren’t really any set rules to follow for how to help someone who doesn’t want help. The only rule that nearly everyone goes by is to get immediate assistance for the person if someone is in danger. That could be from potential suicide, or because the person is threatening someone else.
If someone is in danger, get help. Just because the threat doesn’t seem serious or just because this has happened before does not reduce or eliminate the need for assistance. Help Guide has a great article on suicide prevention.
The kind of potentially necessary help we will be focusing on is when someone is in a non-threatening, non-suicidal psychotic or otherwise deranged state and cannot help themselves. Helping may be necessary in these circumstances so the person can get off of the streets, or even move out of their parent’s/relative’s/friend’s/whoever’s house. Even if such assistance is not needed for living arrangements, it can better the quality of the ill person’s life.
Here are some ways you can help:
- Be encouraging. Do not force the person into treatment.
From personal experience with someone very close to me (as well as how I have been treated myself when psychotic) forcing someone into treatment only causes resentment. In such a situation, you could be doing more harm than good – the person might even cut you off from information and out of their lives. Instead, let the person know you are there for them. A listening ear (that doesn’t blabber to everyone else) is really beneficial. The more the person learns you are trustworthy, the more likely they are to respect your opinion and even get help if you suggest it gently. You cannot rush someone’s trust. It has to be earned, and treated carefully. This will probably not happen overnight. It will take time.
- Don’t nag.
If the person has stopped taking their medicine or is rejecting treatment, nagging will probably not fix the situation. Not nagging, however, does not mean that the person can stop their medicine without consequence. If the person is living under your roof, lay down rules and enforce them. For instance, tell the person (gently but firmly) that if they do not take their medicine, then they will have to find somewhere else to live. You can even help them find another place to live, so you don’t feel guilty about putting them out.
Another option …
A counselor once told me that she would not treat me if I was not taking my medicine. While I disagree with the helpfulness of that approach from a counselor, it does seem like it could be potentially helpful from a friend or non-professional. Of course, it would not be treat but rather hang out with or something along those lines. I do not recommend refusing to talk to the person, because that can make them feel isolated and alone. That is not the goal. You can still talk on the phone, or online, but maybe avoid going places and doing things together. You want the person to know you are serious about their health and wellness.
One More Thing:
- Don’t take any rebuffs personally.
I mentioned earlier that any rebuff is bound to sting – and it probably will. A lot. Just remember that the person is not his/herself at the moment. Of course, if this is typical behavior for him or her with or without medicine, don’t feel obligated to stick around. You are not obligated to be anyone’s friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, ect. The exception to this would of course be relatives, but you are still not required to be in that person’s life. Please don’t simply ditch the person without warning, though – and please don’t wait until they are going through a really bad time to walk out. That’s kicking while they’re down. Use your best judgement, and don’t let a bad relationship (of any kind) drag you down too. Hopefully the aforementioned people are few and far between, though, and that portion of paragraph was unnecessary.
For the people who do not typically treat you badly, when they rebuff your attempts to help them, it’s not meant to be personal. Lashing out in such a way is often regretted afterwards. This is when they need you most – and sometimes being a good friend is the best you can do. It might not seem like much, but it means the world to the person suffering.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional of any kind. This article is not meant to be taken as medical advice. If yourself or someone you know is in danger, please see immediate assistance.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Available 24 hours, everyday.