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Forums / Supporting family and friends with a mental health condition (carers) / How do you determine whether someone is mentally ill?

Topic: How do you determine whether someone is mentally ill?

8 posts, 0 answered
  1. Lizzie01
    Lizzie01 avatar
    3 posts
    5 June 2018
    I am having difficulty with my husband's step daughter. She has recently had a relationship breakup and is now the sole parent of a 3 year old. While she has always been somewhat difficult, and has never liked me or accepted my presence in my husband's life, she seems to have deteriorated recently. Of course, she is having a tough time, and we are trying to help her, by babysitting her son, and supporting her. However she is surly, difficult, selfish and ungrateful. After perfectly normal and respectful encounters, she sends my husband text messages saying the visit was unpleasant. It is confusing and upsetting. I can't tell whether she is having some kind of a breakdown, or if she is just behaving badly. She has had mental health problems before, and has taken anti-depressants in the past, although I am not sure if she is currently taking them. I don't know how to help her.
  2. smallwolf
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    smallwolf avatar
    5894 posts
    5 June 2018 in reply to Lizzie01

    Hi,

    Welcome to beyond blue.

    It is an interesting question you ask. Unfortunately one that has no easy answer. And everyone's case or situation is unique. Please note we are not qualified professionals but "being on the other side" can provide insights or …...

    I can imagine that it would be confusing thinking one thing and a text message would indicate something the opposite.

    And I will, if you permit me will ask a few questions. You don't have to answer any or all the questions. Sorry.

    I would first ask what your husband thinks about the situation? Does he notice any difference? Or does he think everything is ok? Has anything changed recently?

    if it were me, I would chat with the husband with the basis he chat with his daughter just how things are going mental health wise.

    If that doesn't work out you could always have a chat with her yourself on the basis of improving the relationship? Girls out for coffee sort of idea. And could you have an honest discussion without it becoming an argument?

    Would it be fair to ask that you want to honesty from your daughter in law?

    And if you got that, would you be able to work through the issues together?

    And if there were something that was mental health related, then let her know that she has your full support?

    I think that the main thing is to be understanding, listening, concerned, compassionate. We or I would tend to run if you tell us what to do to get better. I hope that makes sense.

    Tim

    3 people found this helpful
  3. Croix
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    Croix avatar
    10565 posts
    5 June 2018 in reply to Lizzie01

    Dear Lizzie01~

    I'm afraid this sort of problem is quite frequent. I'm guessing but I'd imagine the daughter sees you as in intrusion and as someone who is taking your husband away from her. This happens at times with no justification whatsoever and can be really upsetting. When one tries for another rejection can be very hard.

    From the sound of it you are not close enough to her to see if there is anything beyond resentment and the obvious reaction she would have to her relationship breakup. Perhaps you husband is in a better position to talk with her and see what may need doing. If he is in doubt perhaps he can encourage her to see her doctor.

    Is there anyone else in her life hat can lend a hand and look to her welfare too?

    All in all I'd think you husband is in a stressful and difficult position. One cannot help feeling responsible for one's children, step or otherwise, and to have a daughter displaying ill feeling to you and ignoring attempts to make her life better would be difficult for him to deal with. Similarly remarks like that text may have left him feeling quite frustrated and helpless.

    I guess if it was me I'd try to support my partner and let him be the one to deal with her. What do you think?

    Croix

    2 people found this helpful
  4. Lizzie01
    Lizzie01 avatar
    3 posts
    26 June 2018 in reply to Croix

    Thanks for the two replies posted.

    My husband and I have discussed the situation at length. He is very hurt and now very angry by his step daughter's behaviour, (let's call her G) as he has supported her through many issues, and other relationship breakdowns. My husband and I both have our own health problems; my husband has only just recovered from cancer. G provided no support or comfort to him during his illness, when the treatment left him fatigued and emotionally vulnerable. During this difficult time, I remember several sleepless nights, where I held him while he sobbed, after arguments with G.

    G appears to us to be completely ungrateful and selfish, constantly admonishing us for not sufficiently supporting her. Apart from narcissism, she tends toward passive-aggressive stategies like sending hateful text messages instead of discussing things openly. She rewrites history, inventing offences where there were none. She has a chip on her shoulder, and expects the world (more specifically, us) to provide for her. She does not take responsiblity for her own actions, nor learn from her mistakes, always blaming others. She is irrational. It feels like she is a sulky 16 year old, when, in fact, she is in her late 40s.

    I am concerned about her ability to cope with her life, and, especially, to take care of her son. As we are estranged, I don't think she has anyone else to rely on. But I also see that I have a duty of care to my husband. These emotionally gruelling encounters with G are taking a toll on him. He currently 'doesn't want to see her for a while.' I too am angry and feel resentful. But her child is the innocent victim in all of this, and I would like to try to ensure he isn't unduly harmed.

    Is G mentally unwell? Are these the symptoms of mental illness or is she just badly behaved? If the former, perhaps we can get her some help. If not, I feel like I am at the end of my resources.

  5. quirkywords
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    quirkywords avatar
    13060 posts
    26 June 2018 in reply to Lizzie01

    Lizzie01,

    I read your first post then your second and realised I had read it wrongly. G is your husband's step daughter not your stepdaughter. So I wonder does G have any relationship with her own mother.

    Has G been behaving as you described for as long as you have known her or just been behaving like this in last few months? I tend to ask questions so I can workl thing s out but feel free not to answer them if you do not want to.

    It is a difficult question is someone mentally ill or badly behaved, I think a medical professional would determine that.

    When I had huge mood swings at first people thought I was behaving badly.

    Does G have in close friends or relatives that support her.?

    I can see it is so difficult for your husband and yourself and you want so hard to help her.

    Even if she is found to have a mental illness she may deny that and then blame you for labelling her etc etc.

    I think at the moment you and your husband may need strategies to cope with her behaviour. Maybe you could ring a support line, Beyond Blue has one, 1300 22 4636,or see a counsellor or psychologist.

    I think if she does not acknowledge she has a problem she probably will not change, but you and your husband can learn tools you can you use when dealing with her. Just a suggestion that may or may not help.

    If you learn coping skills you can at least interact with her without it upsetting you both.

    Quirky

    1 person found this helpful
  6. Quercus
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    Quercus avatar
    3546 posts
    26 June 2018 in reply to Lizzie01

    Hi Lizzie01,

    You've had a lot of very solid replies but I wanted to reply because something you wrote really disturbed me.

    How you wrote you are concerned about her ability to care for her son and you want to ensure he isn't hurt.

    Are you truly concerned she would do anything to neglect, hurt or abuse her son? Is this likely?

    If so is backing off a good idea? Forgive me if you've already contacted child services or the police.

    I am a total stranger and obviously you know your situation clearly and I do not. However reading your posts I feel a lot of criticism towards your husband's step daughter. Most likely because I relate as a mum with a strained relationship with my parents.

    Personally, I get pretty hostile too when my family hint at me needing to find help and support for myself. And yet they leave me alone to struggle. Why bother saying anything then?

    I feel it is similar to how you expressed concern about her son. If he is at risk the appropriate action is to report it. If he's safe and she's doing what she can as Mum... saying things like this just make the situation worse. Having a mental illness doesn't mean you're not a fit parent.

    As someone with depression, any criticism others have to give is nothing on how badly I already feel about my failings and myself.

    Can you see why she may feel angry? I can.

    I'm not making excuses for her behaviour. Just saying what you view as bad behaviour could be the actions of someone desperate and tired of asking for help and being ignored. This doesn't just have to relate to your husband. He could be copping it for everyone who is failing her (doctors etc).

    Have you sat her down and asked her if she is depressed or suicidal?

    Just my five cents. Feel free to ignore 😊.

    Nat

  7. Lizzie01
    Lizzie01 avatar
    3 posts
    27 June 2018 in reply to Quercus

    Thanks for your reply Nat.

    To answer your question, no, I can't see why G is angry - at least I can't see why she is angry at me or my husband. We have both tried hard to help her, esp my husband. While I am not perfect - far from it - I know I always tried to make the relationship work. But no relationship succeeds when only one person tries. And there was never any attempt on her behalf to participate, no attempt at friendship, no appreciation, no gratitude, no joy. It strikes me that, in the 6 or 7 years that I have known her, G is always scowling, hardly ever happy.

    Neither of us has ever ignored her requests for help, nor would we.

    Of course, I can see G is in a very difficult situation. She has virtually no support (her mother died approx 15 years ago), she doesn't like her biological father or his second wife, the father of her child is an alcoholic who can't keep a job, and his parents are virtually homeless themselves. My husband and I are it for the support team, and now she has pushed us away.

    I have not sat down and asked her is she is depressed or suicidal. She refuses to speak to me. Or my husband. But even if she was talking to me, I can imagine the question would cause a storm.

    I have no reason to believe she would deliberately harm her son, whom she adores. I am just concerned at the harm the overall situation may cause him.

  8. Croix
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    Croix avatar
    10565 posts
    27 June 2018 in reply to Lizzie01

    Dear Lizzie01~

    I'm glad you do not think G's child is at risk from her, also that G is in some circumstances capable of love even if she treats you both so badly. Sadly some people are neither amenable to reason or example.

    I guess like many parents simply being an oasis of calm, care and common sense is all one can be, and have to wait to see if there is a change of heart or circumstances that lets it be appreciated. I suspect just you being there will have a very positive effect on her son, where else will he learn 'normal'?

    I think Quirky's suggestion on getting coping advice is a good one. Both you and you husband need to look after each other as a first priority, and ways to deal with G's behavior and reduce your stress can only be good.

    Croix

    2 people found this helpful

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