Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Will Tough Love Work?

The family is at the end of its rope, we’ve all decided its meds or get out. Will this work, will we as the family have the will power to call the cops and back it up? There is no reasoning and he is becoming more and more unstable, being aggressive, all that. 19 years old, sick for a coupla year now, refuses meds and getting worse. Can you tell me your stories when faced with similar stuff? Did they leave, did they consent to meds? Did you have the will power to call the cops and have them removed. Oy! painful.

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My parents kicked my brother out for a time, but after he was living on the street for about four weeks they let him move back in. My advice is to get law enforcement involved if there is ever a problem. It wasn’t until my brother was court ordered on a depot injection that he improved at all. He is no longer court ordered, but he gets his shot, participates in programs at the community mental health center, and even has a part time job.

I was 19, had been symptomatic for a year and was aggressive and paranoid. I was formally evaluated and rationally explained in a firm tone that I was legally insane. I was shown my pathology on paper in the form of charts with my scores going up like mountains on them, and I came to reality a bit after that.

What made me decide to take meds was when I became an alcoholic. I had a constant commentary of voices in my head unless I was drunk, and I remember one night not having enough alcohol (I had developed an extreme tolerance) and deciding that I needed something else to stop the voices.

I suggest a formal evaluation if he hasnt had one. Most schizophrenics only admit to being mentally ill when they hear if from a professional who specializes in diagnosing mentally ill people…evaluators sole purpose is to talk sense into insane people, after all. They have years of experience, education and training and know how to deal with stubborn schizophrenics (like I was).

It was my call to take meds, and I just gave up on self-medication and realized that I was very sick and needed treatment from a doctor. It was painful, quitting alcohol and getting on meds, and it took months to find the right meds at the right doses, but it paid out, I entered remission and am now very highly functioning and symptom-free.

Just realize that his world seems perfectly real to him. Try getting him to watch movies like A Beautiful Mind and documentaries about schizophrenia. I did, and it made me realize that I wasnt alone in what I was experiencing, in fact I realized that I was one of millions.

The cops only interfere is he is a danger to himself or others, which I was one night when I was belligerent and very psychotic. I was taken to a crisis assessment center for the night and let go the next morning.

My story is similar but it involved hitting rock bottom, I was moaning and staring at the floor, hallucinating when I realized that there wasnt enough booze to make the voices go away. That moment made me decide that I was done living that way. It usually takes something like that, a “moment of clarity” to snap people out of psychosis and make them want to come back to reality.

Basically, he needs to WANT to be sane again in order for him to get better. Education about his illness, support groups, NAMI is a good one, they will embrace him, the leaders in the group are in recovery themselves and will handle him very gently and very well, given that you can get him to go. They offer free education classes about mental illnesses and the various medications for them for members of the support group. It’s free and anonymous, you just write whatever name you want on a name tag and you’re part of the group.

But the support groups, the medications, therapy, none of it will matter unless he decides to go. There must be compliance and he must admit to being mentally ill. I’m sorry, but that’s what I know from basically being him. I wish I didn’t have to sound harsh, but this is very serious and I can’t lie to you about this. He MUST desire to get well.


Every time we got the police involved they carted our son off to jail, and then we had to get him out of jail, hire a lawyer, court appearances, etc. Law enforcement around here are not great with the mentally ill and us calling them really created a bigger problem.

Don’t know where you are located, but you may want to call your county courthouse and talk to them about having him committed. They will probably tell you he has to be a threat to himself or others, so you will want to have your ducks in a row about how threatening he is when you call. I’ve said it a few times on this website that you may have to “embellish” the severity of the threat a bit in order for him to be committed. You will have to go to the courthouse in person, usually two of you, sign the papers, and the judge will have the sheriff’s dept. come pick him up and take him to the hospital.

He will, of course, hate you for this at first, but once he is on appropriate meds and becomes stable and lucid, he will be thankful.

And yes, it’s the hardest and most painful thing to do, but in retrospect it’s the best thing we did.

Best of luck to you and please keep us posted.


Things were pretty bad with my son for awhile. He is 20 now. 19 when things were pretty out of control. I was almost to the point of having him removed from the home but I wasn’t willing to follow through on that so I had to back off. My son’s last hospitalization seems to have been a turning point for him although it was his 6th in three years. He was warned that if he returned within a short period of time then he would have to go on injections which he hates. As much as I hated watching him go through being involuntarily admitted, it was the best spot for him at the time. Currently he is being medication compliant. I couldn’t force this. He had to decide on his own that at least for right now they are needed.

As lovemyson stated getting someone admitted can be tough. I had to wait until my son decompressed to the point were he could not keep it together in front of other people so it was pretty obvious that he was in psychosis.
Where I live there is a crisis outreach team that will come to my home and evaluate and decide if hospitalization is needed. Your local police station should have this information as well or a local

This link has some useful information on how to deal with psychosis.
Frequently Asked Questions has some information on hospitalizations.

Thanks for sharing everyone, having a community to talk about this stuff is important. I take NAMI classes too and it helps to know I (we) are not alone. Out walking last night, saw a lot of homeless people and thought how in the hell can I put my kid (legal adult) on the streets, he would quickly deteriorate and might get into real trouble. OTOH, when at home, we can not be a family, we all hide, and he is getting aggressive again, destabilizing. So anti med, he might have to hit rock bottom before coming round.

Have decided against tough love, kicking him out on the street if he continues to refuse meds. He would crack much faster in the streets. But he continues to torment the house and none of us want to be around him. My next move is to find a place where he can live, thinking of an ILF, there are many in town. Does anyone have thoughts on this approach? Our family is disintegrating under the strain. We can be more helpful if he is not living with us. He might be better off too.

Personally I don’t have any experience with them. I have looked into alternative living arrangements a bit when things were bad. Only found one that had a good reputation and dealt with concurrent disorder (drug addiction as well). But waiting list can be long for the section covered under our health care and expensive for the private section. Close by ones had a bad rep or were mostly seniors. In the end I don’t think I could have signed him up for any of them. He had to do it. Kind of like detox. You can walk them to the door but can’t make them walk in. I couldn’t even get him to a homeless shelter without calling the police and all they could do was drop him off. Again he had to agree to walk in and he wasn’t agreeing to do so, so I had to drop it. But I’m in Canada so I don’t know what it is like anywhere else.

I looked into how to discipline ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) which helped me a lot to put things into perspective, adjust my expectations and try to get at least my own emotions under control so that I could cope better.

I no longer believe in tough love when it comes to folks who have a serious mental illness, however it doesn’t mean that that parents or siblings have to put up with abusive behavior. There are ways to deal with that without abandoning your mentally ill child.

Larry, I heard from several fellow NAMI members who have shared their story on how they dealt with their mental illness. I remember one story in particular. Let’s call him Bob. Bob did not want to take meds, behaved erratically and was in his twenties when he left his home to live on the street. His father set up a P.O. box for his son so he could communicate with him. He would see his son downtown and send him letters and also because his son was approved for SSI – would send the SSI checks to the P.O. Box. This went on for years. Bob wanted to live on the streets. He did drugs, drank and became a street person. It wasn’t until he almost reached 40 years old that Bob decided he was tired of living on the streets. The streets were dangerous and he was sick and tired of always being cold. He contacted his father and told him he wanted to have a clean and sober life. The father hooked him up with mental health services in the community, found him a place to stay and as Bob became stronger and healthier, he was able to live in his own apartment. Bob met a very nice woman who struggled with Bipolar illness. In her former life she was a health care provider – was educated, smart, etc. They fell in love and they became very involved in the mental health community helping others. I loved Bob’s story because his father never gave up on him and Bob eventually helped himself. This is true story which Bob shared with me at a NAMI meeting.


Thank you for sharing Bob’s story. See, never give up hope that life can turn around.

I have a very supportive family, but I also ended up on the streets for a bit. Not because my family was doing the tough love thing, it was because they couldn’t help me. Especially when I wasn’t ready to help myself in any way. They made it perfectly clear that they loved me, the door back into the family will always and forever be open, but they couldn’t keep cleaning up after me. They needed to help and raise my other siblings.

When I made an honest attempt to quit drugs, take my meds, get my head out of my butt, life got easier for me.

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@Larry…I was hell for my parents but Im real glad they didn’t throw me out. They tolerated my craziness and if it wasn’t for their support I wouldn’t have gotten better. So, I wouldnt advise taking the hardline with your son.
Just try and be supportive and tolerant. He will get better.

But if he is violent, you could get him sectioned under the mental health act.

By the way. I was rarely med compliant. Anti psychotics are not effective and have lots of bad side effects. Psychiatrists will admit this to you.

As regards treating this illness, you should try treating it holistically. For me, my schizophrenia was spiritual in nature. Spirituality helped me a lot. I volunteered with a Christian organisation the Legion of Mary. The people I met there helped me get over my spiritual paranoia.

Anyway, my point is, don’t dismiss other therapies.

I applaud the people/caregivers who don’t give up. I must say that I truly could not handle any more emotional pain after having my apt. destroyed, my phone smashed to pieces, taken a stoke against the head, having my throat grabbed (and so on) because my partner diagnosed with SZ did not want to seek the proper aid. Due to little insight of his illness and rather self medicating with alchol. For now I take a time out untill he hopefully seeks the help needed. I’m not sure tough love helps, I am hoping it changes something.

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I know from my experience tough love changed my life. It didnt happen over night but it worked in the long run. Not having a dad i tormented my mother for years without even realizing i was doing it. I knew i had problems but i didnt like the solution. I had little to no responsiblity at home and things got pretty bad. The police started taking me to pysch wards and id always be aloud to go back home. I eventually went to jail and this was the point where my mom had had enough. No one bailed me out and was there for awhile. Upon getting out to my surprise my mom said you cant come home and got me a bus ticket and gave me 200 hundred dollars. It was not easy and i struggled for a long time on the streets in and out of group homes, dumps, rehabs, bridges, u name it. My mother died while i was in pysch ward. I guess that was gods tough love. Looking back i can say it was what i needed though. I had absolutly no options but to get my shit together or keep living a vicious cycle. My mom passing motivated me to better my life and work really hard to get better. Thats what still motivates me today. The beleif that shes finally at rest watching over me as i “Grow Up”. I wish i could have gotten my shit together along time ago so i could have been the son not that she wanted me to be but the son she deserved.

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I’m glad things turned out OK for you in the end and I am sure your mom is proud of you now. I know personally that the love never stops ( I still love my ex partner ) but that I can’t take any more pain.
Thanks for your insight. Hugs.

My family stuck by me the entire time I was sick, whether I was living with them or not. They put up with things that probably few would have put up with. The only example of anything coming close to tough love was when my mother was trying her best to have me committed against my will to the state hospital. But this was not to be as I never presented as anything but polite and rather normal when speaking with a doctor.

But they stuck with me being as supportive as they could throughout my six year psychosis. As I began to recover from my symptoms of Sz my relationship with my family began to heal immediately. Today I have a wonderful relationship with my parents and believe as they probably did that kicking me out or severing ties may have only made my situation worse.

I was ill starting in my teens and very non-compliant. I was kicked out of my home a number of times, eventually for good. It was a good thing, being at home just wasn’t working out.

I think tough love is really the best way to handle things in almost all situations.

I didn’t start to become stable until I was 30. It’s just something I grew into more than anything people did for me.

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My parents did not try the “Tough Love” deal… they just stuck to their guns of what they said would happen… happened.

There was a point were I did get put in a group home… not because it was tough love… my parents just said… “We love you, but we have 4 other kids at home who need our help to. So, there’s nothing we can do right now.”

Cops getting involved with mentally ill isn’t always a good idea…sometimes they will just drop them off at a hospital and let doctors take it from there, but you also stand the chance of jail, money spent on court costs, a record, etc. And i have heard there are thousands of mentally ill people in jails because society basically doesn’t know what to do and is ignorant about it.
I’m not sure about the tough love…might work for some and not for others… I got the switch as a kid and hated it and at age 12 took the switch away from my Mom, threw it and went nuts…I didn’t harm her but I sure did scare her and she never switched me again… ended up in boarding school shortly after… another aspect of tough love, which also backfired and my Mom admitted so years later…told me she should have re thought her tough love approach… the school that was meant to straiten me out actually introduced me to drugs and a bunch of other stuff I wasn’t exposed to in my hometown.
What straitened me out in my early 20s was Jesus, not any type of human tough love tactic.

That said, I will admit I was giving my Mom a hard time, letting people in, and dogs to run through the house while she worked, skipping school, smoking weed, stealing her liquor, planting weed in the garden, staying out past curfew, cranking loud music so the neighbors complained. egging the neighbors house when he yelled at me in my own yard, who then made my Mom clean it up because he refused to let me clean it…so I can sort of understand her point of view too…

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Ok, so from a caregiver’s point of view- like in my case- The beating and emotional abuse would have continued… Not too mention the things that got destroyed because of his own anger- how much should “I” take before enough is enough?
In my case my partner had little insight so going to a doc or hospital was out of the question. Plus he rather self medicated with booze. I find that a person can only be helped if they want to get help… I have no problems (as I already have mentioned) with strange behaviour, or voices or anything else. But abuse, whether it is physical or emotional, is never accepted…

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