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How Should I Interact With My Mentally Ill Mother?

14 January, 2022
Q As-Salamualaikum, How should I interact with my parents? My dad doesn’t talk to my mom at all, he ignores her and avoids her in the house.

I actually don’t remember the last time he said a single word to her. My mother is depressed and, therefore, socially isolated because she withdrew from her friends.

She relies on me and my siblings for social interaction, even though they have moved out so we can’t really talk to her that often. Because of her depression, I feel like she is emotionally unavailable and maybe even neglectful. Because of this, I lash out or overreact whether my mom does or doesn’t do anything wrong.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

I would kindly suggest that you try to get your mom out of the house when possible.

Engage your dad you are making him feel heard, seen, and cared about regarding the situation with your mom.

Another important factor would be to try to engage your mom in counseling.


As salamu alaykum sister,

Sister, you must be under tremendous stress from living in a household where your mom has mental health issues and your father does not speak with her or interact.

You stated your mother is depressed and I can imagine that is really hard on you, especially as she has not received treatment (you did not mention she did) and she is socially isolated. I am sorry that you are in this situation but in sha Allah perhaps things can change.

Mental Health Issues

Depression and other mental health issues can be emotionally draining, especially when the person who is suffering from depression or mental illness is a loved one. It is even further compounded when you live with the person and you feel helpless as to what to do for them.

Mental health issues affect the whole family. For instance, your dad stopped talking to her, perhaps he gave up. Perhaps it has hurt him so much, he may feel helpless and therefore stop interacting.

Encouragement and Social Activities

Sister, I would kindly suggest that you try to get your mom out of the house when possible. Try encouraging her to do small things with you. Maybe take her to the park, Masjid for prayer, shopping, and other things she may enjoy.

She may be resistive at first so you may want to take her out for a short time initially, maybe 5 or 10 minutes to a nearby park or window shopping. As she has not been outside for a while this may be the best way to help her acclimate into social activities and regain a sense of hope and comfortableness. You may wish to engage your dad or siblings if they are willing.

Counseling for Mom

Another important factor would be to try to engage your mom in counseling. This may perhaps be more successful after a few short outings so she can get used to other environments rather than the home.

Right now, the thought of going out into a strange office meeting a strange person may be too overwhelming. However, you know your mother best so in sha Allah please do try to engage her in counseling.

You may want to state that you will go with her and that you will be supportive of her efforts towards healing. I know this is asking a lot from you as you are only 17 and you probably have a full plate of work at school, but if you take some time out a few days a week for your mom, in sha Allah things will get better.

Addressing your Dad

Sister, you may wish to speak with your dad about how he feels regarding the situation with your mom. Maybe you and he can go for a nice dinner, a quiet walk somewhere, and talk. Perhaps he has no one to talk to regarding your mom.

Perhaps he can offer you more insight into your mom’s condition that you did not previously know. In any case sister, by engaging your dad you are making him feel heard, seen, and cared about regarding the situation with your mom.

After all, that is her husband and he loves her very much. He may be at a loss at what to do at this point in life. Your energy and ideas may give him hope as well.

Lashing Out-Stress

Sister, you stated that you sometimes lash out at your mom. It is understandable that you may lash out or overreact when your mom does or doesn’t do things that are wrong. It’s not right, and please pray to Allah for forgiveness, but for a young adult, you are under a lot of stress carrying a lot of responsibility.

I can also imagine you worry a great deal about your mom because you love her very much. Acknowledging your sensitivity, hurt, and anger over the situation is very brave and I am proud of you for being able to identify this. In sha Allah pray to Allah for patience and ease, healing for your mom, as well as healing for yourself because I can imagine it has been very hard on you as well, and possibly you are scared… of the short and long term outcomes.

Conclusion

Sister, please do try to encourage and engage your mom to get out of the house for short periods of time with you building up the time and activity level each week.

Insha’Allah encourages her to go for counseling stating you will go with her and be supportive. Try to emphasize the benefits of counseling and healing in terms of her feelings of happiness and an increased ability to do the things she once enjoyed. Engage your dad and/or siblings in these efforts if possible.

Insha’Allah, your dad may become more responsive if he sees a positive change due to these efforts. Keep in mind sister-he is probably hurting too.

Sister, try not to be so hard on yourself, you are dealing with a lot, but please be mindful of your own stress levels and ensure you are practicing self-care as well. Insha’Allah ask Allah for forgiveness, and to grant you ease.

Pray to Allah to help your mom in her healing journey so your family can once again live in joy-especially your mom.

We wish you the best.

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Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general. They are purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.