What if your loved one lacks insight?
This month's newsletter provides helpful tools for a situation many family members of persons with schizophrenia and bipolar disorderexperience - what do you do if your loved one is very ill but is unable to see that? What do you do if they are clearly very ill but do not think they need medical treatment? How can family members help?About Anosognosia or Lack of Insight
Anosognosia, also called 'lack of insight', is when a person is unable to detect or recognize that they are ill when it is clear to everyone else. Anasognosia can be a symptom of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, strokes, brain injury and Alzheimer's dementia. It happens when the person's brain stops being able to take in information that their health has changed. Anosognosia can be a common symptom of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Like other symptoms, will often get better when the disorder is being treated. Here is some more background information on anosognosiaHow to talk to a loved one who does not understand they are ill
Xavier Amador, a psychologist and family member, is the author of the book "I am not sick! I don't need help!". In his book he makes the following suggestions for family members.[*]Listen to your loved one with the goal of understanding how they see themselves and what their beliefs are about whether they are ill or not. Ask them what they would like to get out of life and try to understand things from their perspective. You don't have to agree with them, but you can avoid jumping in to disagree with them or challenging them on their beliefs. [*]Empathize with your loved ones feelings. Reflect back what they are feeling. For example, if they don't understand why people are encouraging them to take medications when they don't feel that they are ill, you can say "It must be confusing to be encouraged to take medication when you feel fine". [*]Validate your loved ones experience. Let them know that you might feel the same way if you were in their position. [*]Partner or form a team with your loved ones to work on goals you can share. For example, they might not wish to take their medication for their schizophrenia, but if they would like to feel less anxious, concentrate at work or sleep better and the medication helps with that, then they may be willing to take it for that purpose.How to get help in BC for someone who is critically ill but lacks insight
The BC Mental Health Act is designed to help and protect people who are critically ill. In BC that protection legally includes protection from from likelihood of physical harm to themselves or others and also includes financial harm, vocational harm, family harm and social harm. If you think your loved one might be at risk in one of these ways due to their illness, then you may wish to review the legal information about how to help them in this video
with legal expert Gerrit Clements. You can also contact a BC Schizophrenia Society Educator (see contact information below) to help you figure out what to do. How to find psychiatric intake services in BC
The place to call if your loved one is ill but is not yet receiving psychiatric services in BC is called psychiatric intake. An intake line is where you can call to look into how to connect your loved one with help. Psychiatric services are covered under the Medical Services Plan, so there will not be a cost. Most services are available in mental health clinics in your community.
If your loved one is willing to see their family doctor, they can also go there to be connected with psychiatric help. Your family doctor will need to see your loved one in person in order to help them.
To find the psychiatric intake service nearest your loved one, please call 811 for HealthLinkBC. You may wish to write down the details of what is going on before you call the intake line so you can refer to it.
If you need help connecting with services or support for yourself, the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) has family educators in most areas of BC who can help you, even if your loved one has a mental illness other than schizophrenia or is undiagnosed. You can connect with your local educator by calling the BC Schizophrenia Society office at 604-270-7841 and asking for the educator for your town, or you can visit the BCSS website
and email your local educator via the contact form there.