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Out Of Control Friend

Question:

I have a friend who is bi-polar and she is out of control she has medicine but won’t take it she flushes it or throws fits if I try to get her to take it well for 2 months she has been out of control and stealing,lying,in and out of jail. She busted windows out of another friends car because she would not take her to get a chicken sandwhich. She was only with one man (her husband) up until Oct. when she left him and her kids since she has been with different men every night,I am the only one left in her life that will help her but I can’t take much more of this. She has not home and comes to my house when she has been thrown out of whatever mans house she has been at. She called me Christmas to come pick her up and when I arrived she was only wearing her panties and bra and thought that was ok. I am really worried she is going to get out and someone hurt her, or she hurt someone or herself. She talks about being useless and ready to take her own life all the time. Her mother was schizophrenic and took her own life when my friend was just 15 years old she is now 25..I have called mental hospitals and they can’t help her with out her consent I have got her to talk to them on the phone and she says she will go but then when it comes down to it she refuses to go. I need to know is there anything I can do to help help?????????

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Answer:

This is a very sad, but all too common sort of case. Your friend is pretty clearly disturbed and acting in a chaotic and self-destructive manner. What exactly is wrong with her is not possible to say based on your letter, but taking what you say at face value, treatments are available: they are described here (bipolar) and here (schizoaffective disorder). However, if she refuses treatment there isn’t much that can be done to help her until she becomes an acute danger to herself or to other people, at which point she can be temporarily hospitalized and medicated against her will. But once back out of the hospital, there is little that can be done to keep her taking the treatments. The days of forced and prolonged hospitalization are largely behind us, because of medical advances and skin-flint governments that won’t pay for human services. Perhaps over time she will see reason, or perhaps her record of self-destruction will become great enough that she will be eligible for conservatorship. Until that day what you can do to help her is to repeatedly encourage her to get treatment and to stick with treatment once she’s back on treatment. You cannot force her to accept treatment however. As an old psychiatrist mentor used to say, “In America, you’re free to die with your rights on”.

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