Sunday, July 24, 2011

17 Tips for Navigating the Mental Health System

Navigating the mental health system can be very tricky business. Some of the 17 tips below come from a document that Neal Edgar, Franklin County's mental health ombudsman, prepared for the NAMI Family-to-Family class, and others are just hard-won wisdom.

  1. Know the system as best you can.
    1. Get a resource directory.
    2. Go to meetings and get involved. 
    3. Get to know a social worker in the system.
  1. Get support from others in the same situation.
  1. Lower your expectations, and kick up your prayer life.
  1. Get the facts right and learn the language so people will listen to you.
  1. Know who to contact: case manager, team leader, Client Rights Officer, clinical director.
  1. Make friends with advocacy people.
  1. Be assertive, but polite and positive/empathetic/appreciative. Try not to be negative, threatening or critical.
  1. Get an agreement on a timeline.
  1. Document your contacts and your conversations.
  1. Make copies of everything you mail.
  1. Try to get a Release of Information signed.
  1. In a private hospital, the primary therapist (usually a psychiatric nurse) knows the most. In a public hospital, talk to the social worker assigned to the ward. Get an appointment at his or her convenience. The earlier, the better. Make it short.
  1. Ask for practical information about what to do when the patient is at home.
  1. Write letters of appreciation.
  1. Call and provide information, even if the worker can’t tell you about your loved one.
  1. Keep your loved one involved and informed as much as possible.
  1. Prioritize your relationship with God, your own health and the overall family’s welfare.

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