One in five Canadians experiences mental health symptoms yearly, but 60% of these people will not seek treatment. People avoid mental health treatments for many reasons, fear of stigmatization being one of them. Yet, treatment is the only way to get someone’s life back on track if they experience severe mental health symptoms. This guide on how to get someone mental help when they refuse in Ontario will help parents and loved ones understand their rights. Sometimes, treatment is in someone’s best interest, whether they recognize that or not.
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What to Do When Someone Refuses Mental Health Treatment
The first thing to do for someone who refuses mental health treatment is to talk to them privately. However, if these initial conversations are unsuccessful, repeated urging may harm the relationship.
To avoid getting to that point, loved ones should carefully plan their approach. Here are some tips for starting a conversation about mental health treatment that will optimize the chances of a successful outcome.
How Should I Talk to My Family Member?
You should talk to your family member using empathy, respect, and non-judgmental language. Start the conversation by explaining your perspective of the person’s mental health symptoms, using ‘I’ statements.
Here’s an example of an ‘I’ statement used to approach someone with depressive symptoms: ‘I’ve noticed you no longer read, write, or partake in any of your other passions, and I’m worried.’
The next step is to present treatment as an option. Avoid using judgmental language or giving an opinion about the benefits of treatment. Try a statement like this: ‘Do you think talking to someone might help you understand why you no longer enjoy these activities?’
This statement presents treatment as a choice rather than a mandate. Giving someone the ability to choose will help them feel empowered. Still, be prepared for the person to refuse help.
Then, use the following tips to continue the conversation.
Listen and Validate Their Feelings
A conversation about treatment should be just that: a conversation. Instead of lecturing, pause and listen to the person’s perspective. Listening will foster a better understanding of what they are going through.
Validate the person’s experiences to show support and empathy. Even if the person still refuses to seek help, this approach will ensure the door remains open for future conversations.
It can’t hurt to ask why if the person does not want treatment. Loved ones should be careful about their tone here, ensuring their questions come from a place of curiosity and love rather than challenge.
Understanding the why behind the refusal can help loved ones hone future approaches. For example, say the person is afraid to get on medication. In that case, loved ones could suggest therapy instead.
Resist the Urge to Fix or Give Advice
Though it often comes from a place of love, giving unsolicited advice can be perceived as disrespectful and come off as superior. Only give an opinion if the person asks for it or consents to hear it.
Additionally, avoid recommending how to fix or deal with the person’s symptoms. Leave treatment up to the professionals and focus on providing support to avoid souring the relationship.
Explore Options Together
Some loved ones may be tempted to present the person with a treatment plan without fully understanding the situation. Researching treatments without the person who needs help should only ever be a last resort.
Instead, ask the person if they want to explore treatment options together. If they refuse, don’t push the subject. Instead, take the time to support others impacted by the person’s mental health symptoms.
Support Other Family Members
Mental health disorders can be just as hard on loved ones as on those suffering from them. Younger children, especially, do not always understand what’s going on and may internalize the person’s behaviour.
If the individual who needs help won’t get it, focus on helping other family members heal. Family support programs are available to help loved ones better understand mental health conditions and ways to cope.
Find Support for Yourself
Caring for or even being around someone with a mental illness can take a serious toll. While you are busy trying to get help for the person suffering and their family members, do not forget to practice self-care.
Seek support from trusted friends and family members and participate in stress-reduction activities. Set strong boundaries, and do not be afraid to take some space if needed.
How Do I Prepare for a Crisis?
You prepare for a crisis by identifying triggers and compiling helpful resources. What is a mental health crisis exactly? Mental health crises occur when someone’s symptoms:
- Put themself at risk for harm
- Put others at risk for harm
- Prevent them from functioning
Helpful resources may include phone numbers for a local hospital, police department, or mental health treatment centre. Talk Suicide Canada and Ontario-specific crisis hotlines are also excellent resources to keep on hand.
Learn About Mental Illness
We mentioned that identifying triggers can also help loved ones prepare for a mental health crisis. What is a trigger? Mental health triggers are people, places, things, or situations that bring on or exacerbate someone’s symptoms.
Mental health triggers differ for everyone, though some disorders may feature hallmark triggers. Identifying what brings on or worsens someone’s symptoms can help avoid a crisis.
Understanding triggers requires loved ones to educate themselves about mental health conditions in general. Talking to the person about their symptoms and triggers is a great way to learn about their unique experience.
What If I Think My Family Member May Harm Themself or Someone Else?
If you think your family member may harm themself or someone else, call emergency responders and tell them the person is experiencing a mental health crisis.
If the person is only showing violence toward themself, take them to an emergency room near you. Call emergency responders if the person refuses to go to the hospital.
Can I Force My Family Member Into Treatment?
Yes, you can force your family member into treatment in some very specific situations. However, there are a few reasons why it is always best to seek the person’s consent first before resorting to these options.
The first reason is that treatment is more helpful when the person agrees to receive it. Involuntary treatment can impact recovery rates by affecting the person’s self-esteem and sense of empowerment.
The second reason is that involuntary treatment can harm relationships. The person who was involuntarily committed may resent the people involved, leading to the loss of much-needed support for the individual who is suffering.
Still, forcing someone into treatment may be the last resort. Studies show that it can be effective, too. They may be particularly helpful for people with mental illnesses and co-occurring alcohol or drug use issues.
Understanding involuntary admissions to psychiatric facilities and the associated legalities can help in these cases. Learn what the Ontario Mental Health Act (MHA) says about forcing people into treatment next.
The Mental Health Act
There are two situations where loved ones could force someone to get mental health treatment in Ontario. They are:
- The person is incapacitated and can’t make decisions independently
- The person presents a risk of harm to themself or others
The first situation is relatively straightforward. The Health Care Consent Act (HCCA) outlines what constitutes incapacitation, which is determined on a treatment-specific basis. The MHA governs the second situation.
Involuntary admission in the Mental Health Act can play out in a couple of ways. First, someone with severe mental health symptoms may require a trip to the hospital. There, the physician may order a Form 1, 3, and 4.
Forms 3 and 4 allow the hospital to detain someone who is a risk to themself or others. During that time, the hospital can use Form 1 for a mental health assessment without the person’s consent.
Secondly, family members can request Form 2 from a justice of the peace for someone threatening to harm themself or others. This form allows law enforcement to submit the person to a hospital for a Form 1 assessment.
If the hospital finds grounds for Forms 3 and 4, they can detain the person. In both cases, doctors cannot legally force someone to undergo treatment unless the person is incapacitated or under a Community Treatment Order.
Involuntary Hospital Admission of Mentally Ill People and Their Length of Stay
Someone with a mental illness can’t be detained involuntarily at a hospital forever. Instead, the HCCA and MHA restrict involuntary stays to no more than 72 hours.
This Is How to Get Someone Mental Help When They Refuse in Ontario
Learning how to get someone mental help when they refuse in Ontario is challenging. There are legalities involved, as well as considerations about the impact of involuntary commitment on relationships. However, this may be the only option if the person risks harming themself or others.
Are you seeking mental health resources and advice about supporting a mentally ill loved one? Simcoe’s addiction and mental health experts are here to help you and your family navigate this sensitive subject.
Contact Simcoe for more information or to learn about our treatment programs.