The creation of this guide is to support people experiencing mental health crises, their friends and families by providing important lifesaving information. The guide serves as a guide of what can contribute to an emergency, warning signs that a crisis is emerging, strategies to de-escalate a crisis and resources that may be available for those affected. In addition, information about advocating for a person in crisis along with a sample crisis plan.
Mental health conditions can refer to a variety of mental illnesses including, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders. Mental health conditions are physical illnesses that result when one of the many mechanisms of the brain is not adequately functioning correctly.
When a mental health condition is present, the potential crisis is never far from mind. If you are reading this guide, itis likely that you or someone you love may be experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. Crisis episodes related to mental illness can feel overwhelming. There is the initial shock, followed by many questions.
Everyone can feel overwhelmed, confused or experience anger, grief or guilt. It’s important to remember that we all do the best that we can with the information and the resources we have available to us.
Like any other health crisis, it’s essential to address a mental health emergency quickly and effectively. With mental health conditions, crises can be challenging to predict because often there are no warning signs. Crises can occur even when treatment plans are followed, and mental health professionals are actively involved. Unfortunately, unpredictability is the nature of mental illness.
Unlike other health emergencies, people experiencing mental health crisis often don’t receive instructions or materials on what to expect after the crisis. Frequently, the first point of contact may be with law enforcement since behavioral disturbances and substance use are part of the difficulties associated with mental illness.
Understanding Mental Illness
Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, daily functioning and ability to relate to others. Mental illness doesn’t develop because of a person’s character or intelligence. Mental illness is a disorder of the brain that can make it difficult to cope with the ordinary demands of life. No one is to blame – not the person and not the family.
Currently, there are no blood tests or tissue samples that can definitively diagnose mental illnesses. Clinical observations of the behavior of the patient and reports from those close to the person are used to make a diagnosis. Symptoms vary from one person to another, and each person responds differently, which complicates getting an accurate diagnosis. The most common mental illness diagnoses include depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. Regardless of the diagnosis, symptoms can be similar and can overlap, especially in times of crisis.
It’s important to be aware that the presence of one or more symptom is no evidence that mental illness is present. The patient may be experiencing a typical reaction to stress, or a sign of another underlying medical condition. One essential part of the patient’s initial psychiatric evaluation is a physical work up to rule out underlying physical illnesses, especially when symptoms develop rapidly.
There is always a reason for hope — with more effective therapeutic interventions, support services and the development of new medications patients can experience positive outcomes. Recovery education and peer support can assist people to cope with and even lessen symptoms, so they don’t impact daily functioning.