How to Help a Family Member Suffering from Bi-polar Disorder?
Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
My brother has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. He frequently refuses to take his medication and, during his manic phase, acts in ways that cause much distress to our family. He becomes difficult to deal with and is controlling. Recently, he even divorced his wife when he was like this.
What is Shari’a ruling for when he is in a sane state and decides to leave medication? Each time he gets sick, it becomes everybody’s burden, especially my parents.
Is there an Islamic organization that helps people suffering from mental illnesses?
I’m sorry to hear that you have such a difficult situation to deal with. It’s a massive test from Allah for you and your family. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for his situation if he does not want to take the bull by the horns and do something.
Usually, people who take drugs, purchase things excessively, and in these self-destructive ways have a lot of emotional scarring, which these activities help them to escape from. It helps temporarily. You mentioned that he feels his upbringing caused all this, but the rest of you were okay. It may be the case; everyone is different.
Please refer to In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Mate.
Shari’a Rulings For The Insane
The Shari’a does not have a specific ruling for him if he can’t choose the correct course of action when he refuses the medication. If he were classed as insane at this time, meaning he does not possess the capacity to discern which actions are beneficial and which are harmful, the rules of the Shari’a wouldn’t apply to him in some situations.
This would include fasting, praying, Hajj, and even divorce. If he initiated a divorce when in such a state, the divorce will not go into effect. You would have to consult with a doctor to ascertain whether this description fits him at a particular time. [Al Qari, Sharh Mukhtasar al Manar; Maydani, al Lubbab]
Helping Him Take Medication
If he struggles to find the motivation to take the medication, or if the side effects are too intense, it might be better to consult a specialist. This might be a difficult question, but is he safe in society? Could he end up harming himself or others? You should speak to a doctor about this, and if it is needed that he be sent to a hospital, then that’s what should be done.
Otherwise, if a suitable medication can be found, he should be strongly encouraged to take it. He clearly can’t be left to take responsibility for himself. If he is sane and does not take them, someone he will listen to should firmly encourage him to take them, due to the harm resulting from his actions.
Treating Mental Health
Mental illnesses are, in many cases, the advanced stages of intense emotional trauma. Usually, trauma can be treated through therapy, but the matter is much more complicated in the case of mental illnesses. A professional must be consulted, especially in starting or stopping the medication.
I do not know of an Islamic organization that exists to help with this problem. It is something of importance and is set to increase in the coming years. We ask Allah to facilitate healing and support for everyone in a situation or related to someone like that.
Trials That Make One Great
The above is the title of one of the lessons on the stories of the Prophets on our Youtube channel. This lesson is about the intense trials Ibrahim and Hajr (peace and blessings be upon them) went through. They were very difficult. Yet, their purpose was not to simply give them a difficult test. The purpose was to raise them and make them great. The entire Hajj revolves around these two blessed individuals.
Your situation with your brother is the same thing. Allah has given him a test and Allah has made him your test. It must be difficult having to deal with it, especially for your parents. Try to see it as an opportunity to get into Paradise quickly.
A lady with epilepsy asked the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) to pray that her affliction was lifted. He told her that he could do so, or she could be patient, and she would be guaranteed Paradise in exchange. She chose Paradise. [Bukhari]
Great Reward in Helping Family
Don’t take this to mean that you should ‘suck it up and deal with it.’ That is not what I’m saying. We all have a limit. There is only so much stress we can handle before it seeps out into our dealings and relationships with others.
He is your brother. Sometimes the sibling dynamic is complicated. In some situations, there is so much baggage between people that it is hard to get on. However, this is a test Allah has tried us with. The rewards for it are many.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever would be happy to have his provision continually expanded and to be made to thrive in life on all levels, let him maintain his familial ties.” [Bukhari]
There is also the famous hadith which you can take literally: “Allah actively helps his servant as long as the servant is helping his brother.” [Muslim] Think about the implications of this. You’ll have Allah taking care of your needs.
Do What You Can and Seek Help For the Rest
Help and support your brother as much as you can. If you get overwhelmed, take a step back. Find others who can help you all deal with the difficult situation and learn to step back if it’s affecting you negatively until it you manage again. If it means having him institutionalized, that may be the best thing for him.
Consult with the rest of your family. This type of situation needs to be dealt with because, if left unchecked, it will be very detrimental for everyone – especially your family ties. Involve his wife, and tell them how you feel. Dealing with the complex phase and not seeing them when it is over is bound to cause discomfort. Perhaps they are not away.
Above all – try to remain calm and not use inflammatory language. It might feel good, but it’s counterproductive.
I pray Allah facilitates everything for all of you.
[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with many erudite scholars. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Quranic recital and he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Quranic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.