Sunday, September 2, 2012

How to Behave When It Gets Bad

Mental health crises can arrive in dramatic ways: A phone call that you will never forget as long as you live or a police officer at the door. But crises also can build, so you don't realize how bad things are until someone else points it out.

How can you tell if you are in a crisis? Here are three questions to ask:
  1. Has someone been hurt? Is your loved one or someone in danger of being hurt? 
  2. Has property been damaged? Does it seem likely that it could be?
  3. Does the behavior you are seeing indicate that a serious relapse is taking place? 
If you answer "yes," you need to take immediate action.  Go to your crisis plan and begin to implement it. You need to trust your instincts as well as you determine how quickly you have to act.

Step One: Get help. Call the treatment team or Netcare immediately. If you need to call the police, ask for officers who have had Crisis Intervention Team training. These officers are especially educated to deal more effectively with people whose mental illnesses are symptomatic.

While you are moving to get help, you need to watch your own behavior. You are trying to help your loved one regain control, so you need to be in control of yourself. Be calm. Speak slowly and firmly. Don't criticize or yell. 

You'll also need to start thinking about safety. The warning signs of imminent physical violence include tremor, rigid posture, clenched jaws and fists, verbal abuse, profanity and hyperactivity.

Obviously, remove any weapons from your home, and alert others who live there. Tell your loved one if his or her behavior is scaring you. 

Allow your loved one to have physical space. Don't block the doorway or stand over them. Don't make them feel cornered. Make sure you have an easy exit from any room and get out immediately if violence starts.

Many people who have a serious mental illness have at least one serious relapse. We all pray that the relapse doesn't end with serious consequences. The best thing that could happen is that it influences the loved one to take treatment seriously and do the things necessary to stay well. 

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