How to handle a mental health emergency


Friends and family who are learning to cope with a loved one recently diagnosed with a disorder will naturally want to educate themselves on the condition. Of course, this will allow them a better understanding of the individual and the opportunity to assist them in appropriately helpful ways. However, there may be more extreme instances when professional assistance is required at once. Such occurrences will often constitute a mental health emergency and it’s important to know when, as well as how, to respond accordingly.

The most obvious mental health emergencies take place when a person is making threats of suicide or is in the process of making a suicide attempt. Threats of suicide should always be taken seriously. Another less common instance is when the person makes violent threats to another. This may take place when a patient is psychotic or is experiencing a visual or audio hallucination. Such a state may be induced by hallucinogenic drugs, paranoia or severe agitation. Perhaps he or she is neglecting their basic needs, such as eating, or has disappeared, which is also cause for alarm. Perhaps drugs or alcohol is leading to extreme impairment or a potential overdose.

If a loved one is prone to acts of violence or create danger for others with little warning, then taking these precautions is a must. This may include removing items from the home that the sufferer may attempt to use as a weapon. Try to avoid situations where they are alone with another person, rather than the minimum of two people. That way, if an emergency does take place and someone is harmed, the other person can contact emergency services. In situations where the person is prone to violence or harming others, take the time to learn some basic self defense techniques. This could help defuse such a situation and prevent it from escalating.

When this type of emergency takes place, those close to the patient may not be sure who to turn to. They may attempt to reach a psychiatrist or psychologist in order to schedule an emergency appointment. However, these professionals are often not equipped to handle such emergencies in their office. The caller may instead receive a recorded message, instructing him or her to take the person to an emergency room as soon as possible in such cases.

Emergency services and related precautions

However, it is clear in such cases that a person who is in such a state of mind may not agree to accompany others to get them the help they need. In this case, the caller will need to contact emergency services and inform them of the danger. Both police and an EMT ambulance will respond to the scene. These professionals will determine whether the sufferer needs to be transferred to a hospital for medical attention. At this time, it is important for everyone to remain calm and to speak in a normal, reasonable tone to the individual, so as not to agitate them further. If agitation does occur, take them to an area away from everyone so that they can calm down. Be as simple and as clear and possible, asking one question at a time. Show empathy and don’t interrupt or be condescending.

Receiving medical attention and recovery

If medical attention is needed, they will be taken to an emergency room for further evaluation and eventually be moved to a psychiatric hospital to receive medication, as well as treatment. This will include group therapy, as well as meetings with a psychiatrist. Once he or she has recovered sufficiently, the patient will return home with medication and opportunities for further treatment. This will be a time for adjustment back to their usual environment, as well as a chance for them to use the life coping tools they have learned during their psychiatric stay. The support of loved ones will be crucial at this time.

To help give adequate preparation to deal with such an emergency, one may choose to take a proactive and preparatory approach. This may include keeping a list of emergency care numbers that may be reached 24 hours per day. Keep as much of the patient’s personal information on hand so that it may be readily presented as needed. This may include details such as their name, date of birth and address. Also be sure to specify their psychiatric diagnosis, present medications, symptoms and age at diagnosis. Mention any allergies he or she has, along with previous hospitalizations and arrests. Also take note of physical characteristics and emergency contacts that should be used as needed by professionals.

Being prepared never hurts, only when a situation arises does the pain of reality truly hit home. By having your mind prepped for any possible scenario, it can better react to the issue happening and become overloaded by the rush of emotions and stress. Hopefully this day will never come, but if it does, you’ll be ready for it.

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