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How to help my mum with depression, mental health issues and coping with an abusive husband?

Community Member

My father has always had anger issues, communication problems and is abusive - constantly mentally and emotionally but sometimes physically. I am 26 years old and have two younger brothers (8 and 10) who I used to help my mum look after. But because of the extreme abuse and stress at home, I developed depression and anxiety. I saw a cousellor for a period of time who helped me through this and encouraged me to move out and focus on myself, which I have now.

I am much happier away from my chaotic family, but I have serious worries about my mum's mental health and I doubt her ability to cope. She used to confide in me and complain to me but now hardly speaks to me and never picks up even if I try to call her to chat. She seems so withdrawn, has next to no friends, and seems unable to deal with life. She often tells me she wants to "just leave everything behind and escape".

To fuel her worries, for more than half a year now my dad had started not coming home at night for several days a week (getting more frequent). My mum found out he had been gambling, now he withdraws from their joint account anywhere between $3k to more than 5k a week. She tried talking to him, pleading, treating him nicer and being very submissive to him - nothing works and he seems to be getting worse. He does not help look after their kids and constantly complains and hurls abusive words at her whenever he's home - it's no doubt she would be reaching breaking point. To worsen this, she feels unable to assert herself and control my brothers - who can be quite disobedient, acting up and difficult as many kids are.

Although I no longer have to witness these conflicts unfold, I can't help but worry sick for her wellbeing, but feel so helpless. I tried telling her she needs to be a stronger woman and leave, but she is quite a spineless, indecisive and submissive woman who doesn't know how to take control of her life. How can I help her through this?

2 Replies 2

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Nylsor, and thanks for posting your comment.

I'm pleased you have moved away because all of this was causing many problems for yourself and now it's flowed onto how your mother is feeling and this has been caused by your father who abusive as well as gambling a lot of money because $3k to $5k is an enormous amount of money to lose.

If your father is not coming home at night then this only increases your mum's worry, how much is he wasting away or maybe who is he seeing, this should make your mum determined to make a decision because facing her fears must strengthen her to make up her mind.

She needs to have her own account, not joint, however, this may concern her to fear any repercussions, so if she decides to do this has to be the day they separate, but it's a big decision to make.

Can I suggest she talks with her doctor as well as Anglicare, they can discuss the situation and accommodate her as well in providing a safety house where your 2 brothers can go.

The other alternative is to remove him from the house, but I know what he may do and she will feel very uncomfortable in what may happen, that's why it's better she moves out, but this will take strength.

Can we please continue this conversation?


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Nylsor

First, I must say, your mum is so fortunate to have you in her life. Not only are you loving and supportive but you have also set a positive example in regard to seeking a better life beyond stress and abuse. As a mum myself, I tell you that you truly are a precious gift.

I am so glad you found someone to guide you through breaking free from your home environment. Through this process you would have discovered effective management to be the key to overall well-being and change. In fact the definition of 'control' is 'effective management'. Through your own process of change, you would have discovered lots of 'programs' running through your head. You can imagine your mum has some of her own mental programs, such as 'loyalty' (to her husband), 'fear and helplessness' (in regard to leaving), 'low self-esteem' and so on. With these running, it may not be as simple as telling your mum to leave the situation, instead you may need to work on replacing the programs so the new ones become her truth. At the moment she believes her current ones to be her truth.

Wondering if it's possible for you to show up at her door and insist 'Come on, I'm taking you out for lunch!' If she agrees to go out, it becomes a chance for you to talk to her for an hour or so. This is also an opportunity to plant a positive seed in her head, a thought that grows to the point where she can't ignore it. Example: Presenting her with the written words 'Your EVOLution' and saying 'My love is found here, in your evolution', pointing out the LOVE (spelt backwards) part. She can take the message with her, literally. Sounds a bit sappy I know. Another seed: 'Dad is out of control and taking you and the boys along for the ride. Do you want to be in the driver's seat?' Another may involve you asking 'What is your management plan, toward positive change?' If she mentions not having a plan, you can offer to work on one together or direct her toward people who can create plans for her (separation, money, etc). This is all a huge responsibility for you to take on, so you might want to investigate some resources, like with what Geoff suggested in mentioning Anglicare.

Again, I wish to convey how happy I am for you, in having discovered a truth which has set you free from the abuse and stress of your family home. Always remember, in your own evolution you will find self love. Keep evolving and take care of yourself.