Forums Home

Carers Forum

Acceptance, connection, support. Share the journey.

Safe, anonymous discussion for people living with mental illness, moderated 24/7 by mental health professionals.

Read the community guidelines
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Something’s not right

New Contributor

Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Hi All,


I am very new to this forum, but definitely not new to living with the pain and challenges with a family member struggling with a mental illness.

My sister was diagnosed with bipolar many years ago, but has lived out of home even longer ago than we knew her diagnoses. I'm a younger sibling, so it's been difficult for me to know how to do the right thing in the past, and years of being abused by her in unimaginable ways, has left us with a barely existing relationships, despite many attempts.


I'm now a lot older (she is in her 30s, me - late 20s), and I know so much more. I've been working in the community services/mental health/social work space now for about 6 years, and I've seen what works, what doesn't, but have also seen how difficult and restricting our mental health system is.


My sister has recently lost her (probably last) job, her behaviour is very erratic, she is regularly abusing my mum (over the phone), refuses needing help still, even in her 30s. My mum has tried getting her help for years and years, since we were teenagers, but it's been locked door after locked door. My Mum is constantly trying to bandaid the abuse and the immediate issues and is continually giving my sister money, as she calls and abuses her for it every week. My Mum is beyond stressed, she had a stroke recently, she doesn't have a lot of money herself, but she will continue to give and to take it all because she loves her children.


But it's killing her. And the fact my sister is getting worse is killing me as well.


I'm currently researching how to develop a full proof plan to get her involuntary admitted, for proper long-term treatment (no over night/weekend stays and then releases). I know the basics of the mental health act, and I know the differences in the public and private system and the financial restraints... I guess what I really want is - who has experience in this?


Can anyone share their stories - the challenges and strengths that had someone they loved in complete aggressive refusal of getting help, actually getting help through an involuntary admission?


This is the first I have posted even a smidge of my story, in fact, it's the first I have shared it outside my own Mum. I've yet to deal with it myself, but I don't have time for that now, I need to get serious with this.


If you read all that - endless thank you. It feels weird sharing, but I'm slowly learning to.

And hopefully someone can provide me some insight.


Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

@Beth15  Hi Beth15 and welcome to the forums Smiley Happy. I have schizoaffective disorder and also have a son2 with schizophrenia (and other problems) and a daughter with chronic depression. I can look at it from both sides as my mother and ex husband involuntarily admitted me for 3 weeks when I was totally manic and in the past I have had to admit my son on several occassions to be assessed.


To be honest and I really mean this I would not admit your sister except as a last resort. She will not thank you for it for a long time if at all. To involunarily admit someone the would be patient has to be a danger to themselves or others. Otherwise it cannot be done. I think a far better choice imho would be to encourage your mother to get space away from your sister.  No contact unless it is supervised with maybe yourself just so that your mother has that support structure in place.


I would be encouraging your sister to seek help if she wont then keep that distance to protect yourself as well. It is a tough one but I have promised my son that I will never send him back to hospital no matter what happens  as it was such an awful experience for him (public). I take my medications so I never get sent back again because again it was such a terrible experience. You have to think long and hard do you really want that for your sister.


I hope my story has helped a bit. Wishing you luck and please keep us posted. Love greenpeaxx

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Welcome to the forum @Beth15 and thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like it's been a tough time for you and your family, we're sorry to hear that you are in the situation where you are admitting your sister. Have you had a chat to SANE or Carer's Australia via phone about the situation that you are all in? They may be able to help point you in the direction of resources to help build a support network for you all. Additionally, you need to make sure you and your mum have the support you need for your own mental health. Heart

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Hi Beth, 

             I have been in the same situation except my son has paranoid schizophrenia. I think each person is individual and an involuntary admission can occur if your sister  has a mental illness, plus she is a danger to herself or others which, can mean, a danger of financial loss, or reputation can be included plus, there is no other way that your sister can be treated in a least restrictive environment, then it could be worth getting your sister assessed. Remembering you are not the one admitting her if your sister needs an admission it would be a professional opinion. A hospital admission saved my sons life and mine however, there can be  trauma in getting admitted involuntarily at times depending on how it is done.

          Sometimes clinicians can be skilful in discussing with people to come to hospital voluntarily. It is about quality of life. I am my sons legal guardian and he is about to get involuntarily admitted, probably tomorrow. There is no choice in his situation and it is heart breaking except it has improved because we prepare him so there is no fear and we are always truthful. Also, your sister could he assessed and treated as I said voluntarily. I guess verbal abuse is not a symptom. Be clear about what are the symptoms because it can be seen as behaviour and that is the hardest part. My son is 35, heard voices at 14 and I was told it was behavioural at the time. Try not to be emotional on the phone to clinicians or  they may think you are the one needing admission lol. I know it is not funny but I have been so frustrated with the system I think MHERL thought I was the problem. I could write a book. I hope that was helpful in some way. I would get a professional opinion. I personally don't believe one size fits all and I am not against involuntary admissions and of course they are a last resort but don't feel guilty if it is in your sisters best interest.

         It might be helpful to tell your sister you think she is unwell and needs treatment. I would not focus on the behaviour because it causes guilt,  I would mainly focus on the things that are important to your sister, possibly the job. No power battles. She might admitt to feeling up and down and depressed but not having Bipolar therefore, she might come to the GP with you for depression or not sleeping. I find the best success I have had was explaining it is normal for people to become mentally unwell at some point in their life. There is nothing worse than feeling like there is something wrong with you even if there is plus there is always hope. Bipolar is quite treatable. 

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Hi Beth,

Any advice if your family member does nt see they are ill? It is heartbreaking seeing a family member having paranoid episodes but will not seek help

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Hi Beth15  -that's awesome that you are sharing your experience for the first time- well done.  This is my first time on the forum too, but, like you I know what its like to be a younger sister of someone with Bipolar.


I have a sister with bi-polar about 2 years older than me, and I remember feeling scared and alone as a teenager when she was angry and sometimes agressive towards me.  I wish that I had been as brave as you are in reaching out for help when I was younger.  Please get professional advice and support to help you and your mother.  If your work has an Employee Assistance Progrom, they are a great source of free counselling - it may help to have someone to talk through what is going on and what your options are.  


The reason I'm joining the forum is that my daughter has recently come out of hospital after involuntary admittance for bi-polar mania.  She was at home when she became manic so I rang the ambulance who took her to the emergency department.  She has received wonderful care in the NSW state system and does not feel traumatised by it.  


I think it does have to be the individual's decision to stay on bipolar medication but ultimately it can turn people's lives around.  My oldest sister, after several hospitalisations, has been living without symptoms and working, and doing wonderful community work since 1990.


I continue to have a difficult relationship with the younger of my two sisters.  I've had periods (we are both now in our 50s) when we have not been in contact.  I've had to learn to realise that she needs to take responsibiilty for her life and not to blame myself when there is friction and to get some emotional distance - but its hard.


I hope things turn out well for you, your sister and your Mum.  Take care.

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Thanks for sharing your stories in support @franklin32@gracie22  & @Hope2019 (and a big welcome to the forums). It's important to be able to share both sides, what is something that you wish you would have asked at the time, but now know, that you can share with @Beth15?

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar


     I am sorry you daughter has been unwell and I am happy for you that she is home. It is good that the experience was not traumatic. I wish you the best for your daughters recovery. Thanks for sharing. I am new to this forum as well. It is good to hear stories of things going right. I do not like to sound negative because Mental Health transportation to hospital in Western Australia has improved greatly in the last 21 years in situations where the police have to be involved so I am grateful. Consumers, carers and clinicians  have worked hard to make mental health recovery focused in WA. I guess I was coming from a forensic space which is a minority of mental health so my idea of involuntary admissions might be a bit tanted with personal experience of 21 years of involutary admissions. So there is most likely alot of stories whereby eperiences are positive. My son went to hospital yesterday involuntarily and it went smootly the police attended but with nursing staff and he appears quite content in hospital. To be honest I think when my son is unwell he feels safe in hospital because there is alot of support. 

Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Hi Gracie and Beth

Gracie - I'm glad your son's latest experience with involuntary admission was better than expected and he is feeling safe in hospital.  I hope you have someone to support you, as I know this experience really knocked me around. Also I hope you have rest and look after yourself too.  

My older sisters told me not to feel guilty if I didn't visit alot in the early days in hospital as they felt they didn't benefit a lot from visits until they were out of their mania.  But as much as I told myself that I couldn't bear to stay away but then learnt to take rest days as I figured I'd be no help to my daughter if my health suffered.


Re Ali's question - what should I have asked back then, that I can share - thinking of my lifelong relationship with sisters with bi-polar - I wish I had asked for advice on how to broach the fact I thought they needed help earlier - I liked your advice Gracie about raising it as something out of love to help them rather than focussing on the behaviour.


Thinking of you all




Re: Having a family member involuntary treated/admitted - Bipolar

Taking those rest days and looking after yourself is really important @franklin32. Thanks for sharing that advice. How are both you and your sister now? 

For urgent assistance, call: