Who is responsible for someone’s mental illness?

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You know, this is a difficult subject to deal with. There are many different views, and each view is probably correct, or not far off.

Let’s start by looking at a seemingly straightforward example about medication. Now, you might say that the person who has the mental condition is responsible for their medication.

But it’s not always that straightforward. Sometimes the person with or in a psychotic condition does not see the need to take medication. Or won’t take medication. However, medication is the only proven way to reduce and manage psychosis.

As a caregiver, and in my work coaching caregivers, I have found one of the most difficult situations is when a loved one with a mental illness decides to self medicate or go off the medication. This is a problematic area because, in most cases, it leads to readmittance to a psychiatric institution for at least three months to stabilise the loved one with a mental illness.

So it’s not so clear cut. However, ultimately, isn’t it the responsibility of the loved one with a mental condition to ensure their health? Some may say it is the responsibility of the person with a mental condition to take their medication. Others may feel personally responsible for their loved one and may say that the person with a mental illness cannot take responsibility for themselves.

There are many other areas where the person with a mental illness needs to take responsibility. This includes personal hygiene, neatness and tidiness of their living space, significant relationships, activities during the day, livelihood pursuits and many more.

When a person with a mental illness has stabilised and irresponsible behaviour continues, then it is time to make them aware that they are also responsible for their lives. They have full loving support from their loved ones, but they also need to meet the caregiver halfway and recognize and acknowledge their personal responsibility.

In the OCD workbook : Your guide to breaking free from obsessive-compulsive disorder / Bruce M. Hyman and
Cherry Pedrick. — 3rd ed, the authors offer the OCD Enabler’s Declaration of Independence. It is a tough-love approach, but realistic.

Here is a quote from the declaration:

“As someone who has been involved in your OCD symptoms, I have come to realize that by participating in your OCD, I have not only hurt myself, I have also contributed to your OCD problem without meaning to do that. Here are some of the ways that I’ve been enabling you:”

This statement has relevance for any mental disorder in that it clearly indicates that the caregiver can only go so far in assisting their loved one with a mental illness even though they love them dearly.

If you have different views, please let me know. It’s a difficult issue as I mentioned  in the beginning and any suggestions that make this easier to handle deal with responsibility are welcome.

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