Dear Annie: My friend, "Andrea," is in her early 20s and concerned about her mother, "Joan." Joan has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and she has abused prescription and other drugs for as long as Andrea can remember.
A few years ago, Joan was put on disability due to a work accident. She used to have a regular doctor, but since the accident, she's been jumping from doctor to doctor in order to get more medication. Meanwhile, she won't take the prescription for her bipolar disorder, since she doesn't think she needs it.
Lately, Joan has been stranger than usual, hearing voices and showing up at Andrea's house at all hours, peeking in the windows. She racks up debt that other family members pay off, and most infuriatingly, she is guilt-tripping Andrea's boyfriend into giving her the pain medication he was prescribed after his own surgery.
Andrea is an only child, and the rest of her extended family are either enablers or in denial. Andrea says she wants to get her mother into an inpatient facility where she'll be safe. But I'm sure Joan would not go willingly, so it would have to be a forced commitment. I feel bad listening to Andrea vent every day and not being able to offer any real advice. How can I help her? — Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned: Please suggest to Andrea that she call the National Alliance for Mental Illness Helpline at 800-950-6264 for resources and information to assist both herself and her mother. NAMI offers support groups for the friends and family members of individuals living with mental illness.
One in five families in the United States is impacted by mental illness. Often people fear that individuals living with mental illness may become dangerous, but in fact, they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Mental illness is a medical condition, like heart disease or diabetes. The stigma that Joan is experiencing may be contributing to her choice not to seek treatment. Focus on supporting Andrea in setting boundaries while remaining compassionate and supportive of her mother.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Living in Dysfunctional Family Land," who wants copies of family photos from his controlling sister. You suggested scanning the ones he wants into his sister's computer and emailing them to himself. I can see the sister sabotaging him.
He may instead want to purchase a small portable wand scanner where the scans are saved to an internal memory card. Then he won't have to rely on access to Sis' computer. He can download them to his home computer or onto a flash drive, and share prints or digital files with his siblings and children.
"Living" may have only one shot at this, so he might want to practice with the scanner beforehand to make sure the scans are crisp and undistorted. — Wand Genie
Dear Genie: You have even less faith in this sister than we do. But you may be right that a portable scanner is his best bet. Thanks for the suggestion.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.