Dr. Cressy Wang
When Your Loved One Is in A Mental Health Crisis
Every week or two, I receive a phone call from a concerned family member or close friend, who's desperately needing guidance on how to help their loved one in a mental health crisis. They ask common questions like:
"Where should I take him/her for an evaluation?"
"Do you think this is serious enough? Should I be scared?"
"Which hospitals can he/she go to? Will they treat patients kindly?"
"Do I need to call the police?"
If you've ever been in this position, you know that it's confusing, scary, and frustrating. Making a sound decision about someone else's mental health is a daunting task, especially when you don't feel well-equipped. So, I decided to write briefly about encountering mental health crisis in your daily life, and what you could do to help your loved one, and yourself, get through it.
Safety First. If your loved one has talked about specific plans to kill themselves or someone else, and can easily obtain the necessary items to do so (e.g., a gun, pills, instructions from the internet, etc.), please take them to the closest hospital emergency room or call 911. The professionals will assess the situation and prescribe appropriate actions from there. It's OK to trust your gut feelings that tell you to be scared for their safety.
Alarming Behaviors. Any drastic change in personality or behaviors should be taken seriously. For example, a person in a manic episode may stay awake for days, then quit their job abruptly and take up a risky business venture with no prior research. Or, a person experiencing psychosis can develop ideas about the world and other people that seem bizarre to the outside observer. A quiet, reserved person may suddenly become uninhibited and engage in disruptive behaviors in public. Or an otherwise social person may become reclusive and detached for no apparent reason. While we all have periods of ups and downs in our mental wellness, these sudden changes can be a sign that something requires immediate evaluation and intervention.
Rally Support. One of the difficult aspects of helping a loved one is a sense of isolation. Maybe you are the only person close enough to them to be aware of the alarming behaviors, or the only person with whom they've shared their deepest secrets. It's easy to feel like everything rests on your shoulders. Don't be trapped! Once you've taken a deep breath and considered the situation, call someone you trust for help. It can be mutual contacts who also know your loved one, such as common friends, other family members, or people from the same volunteer/church/school group. It can also be professionals in your own circle, such as a physician, therapist/counselor, pastor, professor, etc. Finding someone you trust who can share the burden of problem-solving and emotional support can make a huge difference. It wouldn't be very helpful to anyone if you sacrificed your own mental health during this process, would it?
Know Your Options. Here I want to share some national and local resources, and to encourage you to utilize them as needed. Don't be afraid to call for an assessment even if your loved one is not ready to get on the phone themselves yet. The professionals on the other end will help direct your next steps based on what you tell them.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/)
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233 (http://www.thehotline.org/help/help-for-friends-and-family/)
Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas Hotline: (214) 828-1000 or (800) 273-8255 (https://www.sccenter.org/)
Parkland Hospital Psychiatric Emergency Services: 214-590-8761
Medical City Green Oaks Hospital: 972-770-0818 (https://medicalcitygreenoaks.com/service/clinical-diagnostic-service)
Methodist Richardson Mental Health Services HelpLine: 469-204-6920
UT-Southwestern Inpatient Psychlink: 214-630-7285 (https://utswmed.org/conditions-treatments/inpatient-psychiatry/)
Carrollton Springs Hospital Assessment Line: (972) 382-6939 (http://www.carrolltonsprings.com/)
Texas Health Behavioral Health Help Line: 682-236-6023 (https://www.texashealth.org/behavioral-health/about-texas-health-behavioral-health/)
It takes a village to recover from a mental health crisis. I hope this brief rundown can be helpful in some way. If there are other resources you would like to add, feel free to comment or send me a message.
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