Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Watching from the outside; powerless to help

My sister in law is an unmedicated schizophrenic. She lives with my brother and my elementary-aged nephew. This has been a 5-year-journey so far, so I will try to summarize.

She has been hospitalized involuntarily twice, both lasted around 2 weeks, and she was released no better than she had been prior to the hospitalization. She has been involved with law enforcement numerous times. The most recent incident we were told that the prosecutors would seek court-ordered treatment, but they only asked for probation (these were firearms-related charges by the way).

I do not know their day-to-day lives as I live several states away, but I do know there has been violence in the past, and suspect it occurs fairly regularly - perhaps not physical attacks, but throwing objects, punching holes in walls, etc. She has on several occasions talked about being the kind of person who could carry out a mass shooting, and has at least once talked about hearing voices that told her to harm her child.

I am extremely concerned and don’t know what to do to help them. My brother feels he is out of options, as none of the avenues he has pursued to help her have resulted in any meaningful help. He says he would move out/separate if things got bad enough, but I feel that it passed that point long ago. I fear he is too far submerged in the situation to be able to see it rationally.

Is there anything I can do to help my brother/nephew? Are there any resources I can offer my brother to help him help my SIL? Are there any ideas to help my brother see that he is in a situation he needs to get himself and his son out of?

I feel like every day my loved ones are marching closer to a tragedy and I am powerless to stop it.

My experience is not exactly similar, but I do understand your concern. With my family there is a happy outcome only and solely because of repeated attempts to force hospitalize and force medicate, and going to the police and courts as needed. Your brother has to call the police any time there is any threat of danger to himself or his son from his wife. He has to actively try to get them to force hospitalize her and then follow up with the hospital to get her force medicated with a long acting injection. The judge can be contacted and told that his wife is diagnosed but un-medicated and request court ordered meds.

My daughter was force hospitalized 5 times in less than three years, twice after arrests. She was put on long acting injections ONLY because I went to court the most recent time (Dec 2018). I told the judge that my daughter spoke to spiritual beings who watched over the city and she could read minds. During that court appearance she screamed at the judge, “She’s not my mother”, and the judge asked what he could do to help me. I told her she was diagnosed but medicine non-compliant. He court-ordered her onto medication and she had to agree or stay in jail.

It was a long 2.75 years of psychosis before the injections stopped the voices and delusions. She has now been in recovery for six months, has a job, and is almost totally back to her old self. I could never have been strong enough to force the issue without help from people on this site, the police, the judge, and NAMI (where I learned how to contact the hospitals and the doctors despite HIPPA laws).

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Thank you! It is heartening to hear of a happy outcome.

I hadn’t realized there are long-acting injections. That is very good to know! This gives me something to look at and talk with him about. I will also see about encouraging him to contact NAMI (and doing so myself as well). Thank you very much for your story and suggestions.

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Hi artichoke, welcome to the forum. What can be done for your SIL depends on what your brother is willing to do, and the laws in the state where they live.

I can relate to your situation; in my case the MI person is my son’s long-time partner. They live several states away from me. She has been off her medications for over a year and psychotic most of that time. I’ve done some online research and sent info and resources to my son. I don’t think he’s used any of that yet . . . too bogged down with the day-to-day grind of dealing with all the drama and crises, and holding down a full time job. Fortunately, there are no young children living with them.

Would you be able to have your nephew visit you for a while this summer? It might do him good to get away from it all for a while.

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You are very welcome! One step at a time, and things will hopefully straighten out. This is a very, very tough illness: it does destroy lives, but sometimes they can be put back together one piece by one piece.


Thank you.

You summed it up perfectly. I think handling the illness is a full-time job in itself, on top of raising a child and keeping his family housed and fed. It’s easy for me to decide what he needs to do, but I am not living his day-to-day life.

We have suggested that our nephew come out for a visit, but so far he hasn’t agreed to it. I suspect that she would be very much against it, which is why he hasn’t agreed to it. But we will keep trying. In the meantime, I think I have found some additional resources that I may send his way.