Published: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday December 29, 2013 MYT 10:16:48 AM

Dear Thelma: 'My mum is mentally unwell'

Teenage girl craves normality of life with a ‘normal’ mother.

I’M a 16-year-old girl with a strange problem that others would not understand. My problem is my mother. You see, she suffers from mental illness. According to my father, it has been like that from when she was young.

When I asked my father why he married her if he knew she was mentally ill, he said it was because he loved her and he thought he could help her. And besides, they were already engaged and it would bring her and her family dishonour if he were to break off the engagement. It was a small community that they lived in, and that sort of thing just wasn’t done.

Unfortunately, now, I see him suffering because of my mother’s condition. She taunts him night and day. The minute he comes back from work, she will be at his side, scolding, shouting and nagging. But not about normal things, but make-believe stuff.

According to my father, she suffers from psychoses. She has grand delusions about people trying to kill or poison her. And she tells people “weird things”. Like once, she told my aunt’s friends that my aunt (who is a teacher and a very responsible and good one too) had taken a bunch of her students for a trip to the seaside and they all drowned. She never tires and hardly sleeps, yet she can have the energy to go on and on raving.

His relatives have asked him to take a second wife to meet his needs as a man, but he has refused to do so.

I have asked him why he never got her to seek treatment and he said he had tried, but she refused to be admitted for tests and treatment. This was when they first got married. And she accused him of being the one that was mentally ill instead. He even offered to be admitted for tests and treatment together with her. But she refused. Short of forcing her to be admitted against her will, it can’t be done, according to my father.

I am an only child so I have nobody to share this burden with. My father confides in me on most things as well as in a few other relatives, but nobody can do anything. I feel that I’ve grown old before my time because of all these problems. I can’t invite my friends over because my mother scares them away. I tried to before, but she told them strange things, and they started to avoid me. Please help me because I’m at my wits’ end.


IT is not easy living with a person who has a serious mental illness. However, it becomes easier to manage and deal with the difficulties if care providers or family members have sufficient support from mental health professionals.

In your mother’s case, the most important thing to do is to get her psychiatric help. She needs to be properly assessed and given appropriate treatment. And, this needs to be done soon.

With symptoms like your mother’s, the longer they go untreated the worse they become. Hence, the sooner she is taken to see a psychiatrist the better it is for her. And, ultimately, the better it will be for your father and you.

Your father is right in that taking a second wife is not going to solve the problem. The main issue is your mother’s illness and since there are treatments available, the solution is to get her to access them.

Psychosis is a collection of symptoms that is part of a bigger problem. Without proper assessment, she will not be able to receive the necessary treatment that will work for her.

The thing is she does not even have to be admitted for the assessment. This can be done with a consultation with a psychiatrist. She will have to undergo an interview – not too different from when you see a doctor when you are ill.

The psychiatrist will have to ascertain symptoms and severity in order to work out the appropriate medication and dosage. It may be easier if your father meets with a psychiatrist first to explain her symptoms and they can work out ways to bring your mother for a follow-up.

Once she gets the treatment, she will need some time to adjust to it and to find the dose that works best for her. Once that is sorted out, though, she will be able to slowly adjust to “normal” living with adequate emotional support. She already has a loving family so that will be the least of her problems.

Slowly, you will be able to do the kinds of things that people your age do with their mothers. But, first, she needs to get medical attention. A search through the Malaysian Psychiatric Association website may be able to provide you some resources to contact for information.

Dear Thelma
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Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Dear Thelma, mental illness


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