Ask Covenant House

I have a niece who is 16, homeless, mentally ill (prob schizophrenic) and refuses to go to school, take meds etc. She is supporting her “street self-medication” (prob drugs and alcohol) by prostition. She “checks in with her parents occasionally, by phone but refuses any intervention such as group home, private mental health care, a room with govt. funds etc.

She is quite creative and resiliant (for lack of a better description!) at moving from place to place, and her parents have been assured that most likely she will have to experience several mental health hospital admissions until she takes the initiative to i) take meds, and ii)not flee to the streets.

Anyways, here’s my question…. I have her cell phone number and have called her a couple of times, juat to chat.  Unfortunately, she at times is delusional (not unsafe, but not too much in touch with reality, lies a lot as to where she’s at etc.) How do I “keep on talkin'” to her, not lose contact with her…she has succesfully “cut off” anyone who talks to her and disagrees with her, and yet I need some ideas as to how to balance this. I would appreciate ANY hints you could give me. Thanks so much!

OUR RESPONSE:

First and foremost, we want to make sure you are safe.  You should never put yourself in a situation where your physical safety is a concern, i.e. going to meet your niece in an unsafe neighbourhood, etc.  Following that, there are some things you can do to reach out to make contact with your niece. 

I have a niece who is 16, homeless, mentally ill (prob schizophrenic) and refuses to go to school, take meds etc. She is supporting her “street self-medication” (prob drugs and alcohol) by prostition. She “checks in with her parents occasionally, by phone but refuses any intervention such as group home, private mental health care, a room with govt. funds etc.

She is quite creative and resiliant (for lack of a better description!) at moving from place to place, and her parents have been assured that most likely she will have to experience several mental health hospital admissions until she takes the initiative to i) take meds, and ii)not flee to the streets.

Anyways, here’s my question…. I have her cell phone number and have called her a couple of times, juat to chat.  Unfortunately, she at times is delusional (not unsafe, but not too much in touch with reality, lies a lot as to where she’s at etc.) How do I “keep on talkin'” to her, not lose contact with her…she has succesfully “cut off” anyone who talks to her and disagrees with her, and yet I need some ideas as to how to balance this. I would appreciate ANY hints you could give me. Thanks so much!

OUR RESPONSE:

First and foremost, we want to make sure you are safe.  You should never put yourself in a situation where your physical safety is a concern, i.e. going to meet your niece in an unsafe neighbourhood, etc.  Following that, there are some things you can do to reach out to make contact with your niece. 

Our first suggestion is to call your niece at regular, consistent times each week to maintain contact.  If your niece does not answer, that it OK, you can leave a message.  Whether your niece answers or leaves a message, it is best to keep it brief, just calling to let her know that you care about her and that you are wanting to chat- not check in (even though this may be the case). 

You should convey love and caring in the message, not judgement or blame.  It is important for you to show that you are available without strings attached.  We hope that you can continue to build a relationship with your niece and utilize the relationship to get her the treatment she needs.  Also, since your niece is a minor, the Ministry of Children and Families should definitely be notified. 

Here are a few resources worth checking out:

Emergency Mental Health Services

BC Schizophrenia Society- Family Section

Book Recommendation:

http://www.bridgeross.com/brainbroke.html

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