Being Prepared for a Crisis
No one wants to worry about the possibility of a crisis, but they do happen. That doesn't mean you have to feel powerless. Many healthcare providers require patients to create a crisis plan, and may suggest that it be shared with friends and family. Ask your loved one if he has developed a plan.
A Wellness Recovery Action Plan can also be very helpful for your loved one to plan his overall care, and how to avoid a crisis. If he will not work with you on a plan, you can make one on your own. Be sure to include the following information:
- Phone numbers for your loved one’s therapist, psychiatrist and other healthcare providers
- Family members and friends who would be helpful, and local crisis line number
- Phone numbers of family members or friends who would be helpful in a crisis
- Local crisis line number (you can usually find this by contacting your NAMI Affiliate, or by doing an internet search for “mental health crisis services” and the name of your county)
- Addresses of walk-in crisis centers or emergency rooms
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Your address and phone number(s)
- Your loved one’s diagnosis and medications
- Previous psychosis or suicide attempts
- History of drug use
- Things that have helped in the past
- Mobile Crisis Unit phone number in the area (if there is one)
- Determine if police officers in the community have Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)
Go over the plan with your loved one, and if he is comfortable doing so, with his doctor. Keep copies in several places. Store a copy in a drawer in your kitchen, your glove compartment, on your smartphone, your bedside table, or in your wallet. Also, keep a copy in a room in your home that has a lock and a phone.
Psychiatric Advance Directives
You may also want to ask about a Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD), which is a legal document that allows a second party to act on your loved one's behalf if he becomes acutely ill and unable to make decisions about treatment. The PAD is written by your loved one when they are currently ‘competent.’ It details the individual’s preferences for treatment should they become unable to make such decisions due to their mental health condition. Planning ahead can make a huge difference in your loved one’s treatment experience in the future.
In some cases, a person who is suicidal refuses to seek or accept treatment. They may engage in self-harm, risky behaviors and multiple suicide attempts. Oftentimes a person in this condition has a serious underlying mental illness that they refuse treatment for. Unfortunately, because they present such a significant danger to themselves, they may need someone else to make these decisions for them.
A conservatorship is a legal relationship granted by a court that allows one person (the conservator) to make personal decisions for another (the ward), who has shown themselves to be unable to fulfill the basic requirements needed to protect their own health and safety. Unless otherwise specified, the conservator has all of the powers that a parent has over a minor, which would allow the conservator to direct the ward’s mental health treatment and suicide prevention measures.