Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Father with severe mental illness, 20 years and no diagnosis. Time to call in the doc?

I’m a 28 year old male with a seriously ill father (66 years old). He suffered a traumatic head injury (around the age of 27), a stressful marriage with 2 young children, a nighttime burglary, an acrimonious breakup, loss of job, and gradual estrangement from his sons. He first presented with psychotic symptoms over 20 years ago. My brother and I were sat having dinner at his house when he abruptly began to cry, complaining that the military were seeking to persecute him, that his house was bugged, and that soon he would be put on trial before the public. We would get to throw rotten fruit and vegetables at him if he was found guilty. Upon telling our mother we were kept from seeing him alone for our safety and visited him at our grandmothers house every Sunday. This exacerbated his illness, and caused him to slip slowly into isolation, a state in which he has been living for the last 15 or so years.

Around 12 years ago I began reaching out to my father and have managed to keep in fairly regular contact with him, typically a text every week and occasionally meeting for a coffee. It has been emotionally and psychologically challenging. He thinks the Duke of Edinburgh is an incarnation of an evil mastermind who is targeting our family with nefarious schemes. He claims he was hypnotized to move his queen into the path of my bishop during a game of chess. He thinks that he is the victim of targeted weather manipulations from government agents. The list goes on. I used to ignore the delusions in order to have a cordial exchange, but now I’m starting to struggle. I’m doing a PhD, which is quite stressful, and I’ve been treated for depression, much of which is related to the lack of certainty surrounding Dad’s condition.

I’ll cut to the main point. Recently, after 2+ years of deliberation, drafting letter after letter, I telephoned his doctor and explained the situation. The reason it took so long was because I was concerned that such action would exacerbate his illness and in the worst case scenario, jeopardize his autonomy. I rather naively thought that the information would just sit on his record and perhaps be diligently probed at his next voluntary visit, but now the doctor is insisting on seeing my father sooner rather than later, and I am already feeling guilty about forcing the situation to a crisis.

I love my father very much, and feel great compassion for him, but I strongly suspect that his illness is a wrapper around a core of anger, resentment, bitterness, and a a secret agenda that is incompatible with the rest of my family’s interests and preferences. This interpretation is supported by a recent incident with his sister following the death of their mother, where he showed a capacity for explosive anger and violence. Considering this episode in conjunction with his delusions, especially his belief in mind control, I’ve started to question his capacity for responsible agency.

I’m not looking to be told whether I did the right or the wrong thing by contacting his doctor. If he finds out, which no doubt he will at some point, it will stress the relationship I’ve worked so hard to build over the last 12 years. I’ll have to live with that. I’m just wondering if anyone has had a similar experience, or can offer any advice that could be helpful?

All the best

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Yes, make sure the doctor knows about the violence if you want your father to receive forced medical treatment.

I am so sorry to hear how ill your father is. It sounds like a very challenging situation. My situation is different in that I had to contact a medical team for my 21 year old son. He was experiencing psychosis but was too ill to seek medical care himself. Sometimes the family members must do what’s necessary to get medical attention for their mentally ill loved one. That can be contacting the treating physician, getting them hospitalized, police involvement, or some other method depending on the symptoms and severity. It is difficult emotionally but may end up improving the person’s life. It certainly did in my family’s case. I wish you well!

I don’t have any experience yet with forcing a loved one to get treatment since my daughter is compliant with her care, but I think you did the right thing by contacting his doctor, especially with the violent episode. This will at least get it on record, so that if something further happens they will have some history to work with.

You shouldn’t feel bad or have any guilt about your relationship. You sound like a very conscientious person, and I am sure you have done your best in a very difficult situation. Your father’s mental illness is not your responsibility, and you did not cause it. Trying to help is good, but please don’t allow yourself to shoulder the blame of any fallout from seeking help for him.

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I am so sorry for all that you are going through. I have had to do the unthinkable as well. So many times, it is hard to count. From phoning the police on my son 7 times, and going behind his back and working with his Dr. to have him forcibly put in the hospital when he thought he was going to just get his needle. Many other things that make me feel sick to even talk about but I did them all with the motivation of getting him some serious help, which in the end I did, and I believe saved his life. I would do them all over again, and who knows, maybe I will have to. Just know, that sometimes we are their only lifeline, so we have to do things that we never thought we would. I hope and pray that it all works out for you and your family.

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Thanks, I’m hoping I can diffuse the urgency that I created and start trying to pursuade him to visit the GP!

Thanks for sharing, Leiann. That must have been so difficult. Hopefully it won’t come to that again. All the best.

Thank you, all the best.