What to do in a mental health crisis

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Parents, peers or guardians need to know what to do when a situation gets out of control and a teen poses a danger to him/herself, or others. To move a child or teen past a crisis to a safer state and safer place you may need to call for outside help. If you need help to calm an adolescent, prevent violence, suicide, destructive behavior, a runaway situation, or criminal behavior, it is advisable to call a crisis line (such as Netcare 614-276-2273), or law enforcement for intervention. Be specific. “Don’t be afraid to make the call and take the situation seriously,’ advises Rosetta Cowan, Director of Nursing at Pomegranate Health Systems. Cowan’s experience includes many years of psychiatric nursing at Netcare Corporation and Ohio Hospital for Psychiatry. “Take threats of suicide or harm against others very seriously and don’t try to ‘cover’ for a suicidal friend or family member.”

You will be asked for some basic and very important information such as the teen’s name, age, and parent or guardian’s name, and contact information- such as street address, and phone number. Cowan advises that it is also helpful for crisis responders to know of any diagnoses. Has a teen been diagnosed as autistic, or schizophrenic? Does he/she have a medical condition, or any allergies? Is the child on any medications and what doses? Did the teen take alcohol, drugs, or other unknown substances? Is there anything special which helps to calm this teen? Does he/she need medical care or to go to a hospital emergency room or crisis facility for evaluation? Is a police station, or detention more appropriate? Is it more of a situation where an outside authority calming and reasoning with the teen will make it possible for him/her to remain at home? If so, who will be providing assistance going forward?

Many law enforcement providers and first responders have been trained in crisis intervention. They are known as the ‘C.I.T. team’. The most important thing first responders do is ‘triage’ or assess the situation. The first responders need to secure the scene; quickly establish control, and make sure the setting and the people are safe- whether it is a medical, fire, psychiatric or criminal emergency. It is important to be calm and provide facts to help those responding. It’s also very useful to provide any helpful information: “Our son may be off his medications”; “Our daughter may have taken some pills someone gave her”; “Our stepson goes ballistic when you get near him”; “We think our niece needs a psychiatric evaluation she is so depressed”; “Our grandson is threatening people, and we’re scared”.

Meet the first responder and tell them you made the call for help. You may wish to have a back-up family member or trusted person who can help you through the situation and/or let them know who the teen’s pediatrician or family doctor or counselor is. You will need to stay with the child or youth until the crisis is resolved whether the teen goes to a hospital, crisis center, or police station. Your child will need an attorney in the case of an arrest. The most important thing is for the teen to receive the treatment he/she needs at the time and going forward. It is important to remain calm and not be sucked into the crisis or drama. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

When Alberta tried to reach her sister Margaret (who hadn’t felt well the previous day) for 6 ½ hours and couldn’t reach her, she drove to Margaret’s home and found her lying on the floor, disoriented. She called 911. The EMT was very abrupt and ‘not very nice with her’. ‘Who are you!?’ he ordered, and demanded to see ID. He peppered her with terse questions which proved aggravating, as Alberta was a medical professional herself. A crisis is always worse when there is a lot of drama present. First responders must be objective, and encounter some highly unusual circumstances. If a parent or guardian isn’t present to help, the adolescent should give his/her name and explain what is going on. ‘I’m Davey Jones and I took some pills someone gave me that are making me feel really strange. I’m hearing scary voices telling me to do something bad.’ [Its better to catch at an earlier point than bringing an unconscious teen to a hospital with no ID; simply dropping them off and disappearing.] The most important thing is to listen carefully and respond calmly. Help is available, there are solutions, and recovery is possible.

[photo credit: Stockbroker/Superstock 1888R-39172 Depressed teen with pills]

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About Communications

Communications and Social Media @ Sequel-Pomegranate Health Systems
This entry was posted in acute hospital, adolescent psychiatry, mental health, psychiatric care and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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