When we see a loved one in addiction or abject mental health crisis, the feelings are intense. If you have never taken mental health first aid classes or dealt with these issues professionally, seeing someone else in need of mental health crisis support can make you feel helpless. But you’re not. It’s okay if you don’t know what to do. Today, let’s talk about options for obtaining help for someone experiencing a breakdown, whether related to substances or mental health issues.
Most areas now have mental health crisis lines available to the general public. Depending on where you live, your city may have such a resource. Areas with this option allow you to call, explain your situation, and possibly get help for the person experiencing the crisis. Response times may vary, though occasionally, getting help for a psychiatric situation is possible before it devolves into an emergency.
Local resources will vary substantially, but you can always get started with this list of warmlines by state provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). A warm line typically allows you to access resources and speak with professionals directly about the situation. They are invaluable tools for anyone with mental health concerns for themselves or a loved one. Their name is derived from being a step between no professional involvement versus hotlines or police.
An appropriate hotline is also a good resource if you are handling a specific crisis or seeking non-emergency resources. If someone is a danger to themselves or others, the options below are likely more appropriate. Warmlines are most effective when the person with the mental illness is seeking or at least open to receiving help voluntarily.
They are excellent tools for making appointments or connecting with appropriate case professionals but are not a substitute for imminent emergencies. You won’t regret calling 911 if the situation is genuinely life-threatening or objectively too dangerous to manage alone.
If officers respond to any type of call and determine the person in crisis is a suicide, self-harm, violence, or homicide risk, they may medically detain the patient. The length of involuntary detention varies between states, but 24-72 hours is typical for an initial hold. Involuntary holds are not punitive. They are designed to keep the person experiencing the emergency safe for long enough to be properly assessed and evaluated.
Such evaluations may take place in an emergency room or appropriate psychiatric facility. It is always possible for the treating physician to file with the appropriate court to continue holding and treating the patient until they reach stability. Otherwise, the person has the choice to consent to continued treatment or discharge.
Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs) are specially trained to manage situations involving people with mental illness. These officers are not typically going to “bust” anyone for simple things like the presence of marijuana. Their goal is to de-escalate conflict and assist the individual toward appropriate psychiatric help at the appropriate level of care.
If you need to call 911 while addressing a mental health situation, many jurisdictions now allow you to specifically request a response from a CIT-trained officer. According to information provided by the FBI, these officers are trained to understand not only mental health conditions like PTSD but also relevant related issues such as patient rights, community relations, substance issues, co-occurring illnesses, and more.
Further, both the FBI and NAMI confirm that crisis intervention training is highly cost-effective compared to failing to train mental health officers. Consider that these officers provide the primary diversion path away from jail and toward appropriate services.
Involuntary commitment laws vary from state to state, but broadly speaking, a person who holds durable power of attorney over the patient can make the legal maneuvers toward commitment into psychiatric care. This is a last resort move, as most people do better when willing to self-admit voluntarily.
However, patients who break from reality, such as those with schizophrenia, delusional or psychotic disorders, and certain personality disorders, such as dissociative identity disorder (DID), cannot advocate for themselves. Some may not even understand what is happening in objective reality.
In such extreme cases, involuntary commitment becomes an option. This is particularly true if the patient harming themselves or others is probable or inevitable. An appropriate power of attorney will have a rapport with the person in crisis and the hood judgment to oversee and assist with their care.
Health care professionals at Pathways Wellness Center can help during a mental health crisis. Sometimes these crises do not present in big, obvious ways. Often, mental health crisis begins with a deteriorating existing condition or an existing illness or external trigger. If you believe someone is in danger, seek professional help.
Often it is some form of mental health or addiction-related crisis that drives a person toward recovery in the first place. At Pathways Wellness Center, we have seen many variations of crisis begin a path to a happier, more resilient existence. Recovery is not an invitation-only affair. If you or someone you know have questions about managing these types of personal emergencies or managing the aftermath, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Core substance and mental health issues do not just affect the person with the condition but radiate out to family, friends, and other loved ones. Give us a call at (888) 771-0966 for the support you and your loved one need.