What To Do In a Mental Health Crisis

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As high profile, recent celebrity deaths have shown us, suicidal thoughts and actions do not discriminate.  Rich or poor, famous or anonymous, depression, anxiety, addiction, and serious mental illness can strike anyone.  If you have ever called a therapist or a counselor and gotten their voicemail, chances are you’ve heard a variation of “If this is an emergency, please call 911 or visit your nearest ER.”  Today, we will break down what to expect, if you do have a mental health emergency.

First off, 911 or walking in to the nearest ER are not your only options in a crisis, as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7 talk, text or chat support.  They can be a support not just for suicidal thoughts, but also for any sort of distress, as well as for friends and family members who may be looking to help or support a loved one.  While each case is different, in a true mental health emergency, when someone’s life may be on the line, a visit to the hospital is necessary.

If a visit to the emergency room is warranted, it may be helpful to have a loved one there for support, if possible.  Uttering the words, “I feel like killing myself” are extremely daunting and scary to say, particularly to an unknown triage nurse, and having someone there to help support and advocate for you can be critical.  In a crisis such as these, details and factors may be hazy, and a friend or family member may be able to provide information like recent medications taken, or a family mental health history that can help the professionals help you.

Upon the emergency room visit, the appropriate level of care is determined.  The most appropriate settings after suicidal thoughts are either an inpatient hospitalization, where you will be medically and psychologically stabilized and monitored to ensure safety, or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) or Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), which is a higher level of care than a typical outpatient therapy appointment, but still allows for a person to leave the premises, go home, and receive the appropriate supports for stabilization.

It may be helpful to prepare for the types of questions you may be asked, or you may wish to ask, by reviewing this checklist.  Movies, TV shows, and dramatizations have portrayed psychiatric hospitalizations to be scary, prison like institutions.  While a psych hospital is not a resort, the intention is to help, stabilize, and discharge to maintain the stability to an outpatient setting.  You may already be in treatment, in which case your treatment facility will want to consult with the mental health providers and medical providers on your treatment team.  Or, you may have a discharge planner who works with you to find the right supports that meet your financial, mental health, and medical needs.  This is where Therapy Hive can help – a collaborative directory where you can search for providers who can help with the next step of this plan.

No matter what, its important to remember that you can get through a crisis, and that help is there.  1-800-273-TALK is the number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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