It’s difficult when an adult child, sibling, parent, friend, co-worker, or other important person is struggling or behaving in ways that are causing harm. This can be a tricky situation—you want to help, but most adults are responsible for their own care.
There are two important points to think about. First, diagnosing a health condition, especially when symptom-checking is so easy online, can be dangerous. Diagnosis is still always best left to professionals who can look at the whole picture. Remember, too, that the person you care about may have a very different idea of what’s causing their difficulties and what the negative impacts are on their life. Second, except in rare cases, the person being treated needs to be an active player in their own recovery to continue with their treatment, just as they would for any other health problem. If the vast majority of cases, you cannot do this work entirely for them—and trying to do so may damage your relationship.
Be honest about your concerns, the impacts you are seeing that worry you, listen to their point of view and work together to find a solution that works for everyone, even if it means a compromise. You may want to offer to go with them to an appointment, encourage them to do an online screening self-test, or involve someone else close to them who may be similarly concerned and may have more influence in encouraging them to notice changes and seek help. Because you may be feeling frustrated and helpless, it’s important to get care and support for yourself during this time, especially if you’re very close to the person you’re worried about.
In serious situations, the BC Mental Health Act allows someone to be held for a period of time for psychiatric assessment without their consent if they are at risk of harming themselves or others. While it’s necessary in some situations to get someone the care they need, it can be traumatic for everyone involved. For more on the BC Mental Health Act, see the Guide to the Mental Health Act.
Here are more resources that might help:
- Helping a Friend You’re Worried About info sheet (for young people)
- The Finding the Right Help—Navigating the System issue of Visions Journal
- How You Can Help: A Toolkit for Families
- The Families issue of Visions Journal
- Family Self-Care and Recovery from Mental Illness toolkit
- Coping with Mental Health Crises and Emergencies info sheet
- From Grief to Action’s Coping Kit (for substance use problems)
About the author
The Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing a mental illness through public education, community-based research, advocacy, and direct services. Visit www.cmha.bc.ca.
Q&A is for readers who want to take charge of their well-being, support a friend or loved one, find good help, or just learn more about mental health and substance use. Here, the information and resource experts at HeretoHelp will answer the questions that we’re asked most often. We'll offer tips and information, and we'll connect you with help in BC, Canada. If you have a question you’d like to ask, email us at email@example.com, tweet @heretohelpbc, or log in to HeretoHelp and post a comment on this page.