During A Mental Health Crisis, A Family's Call To 911 Turns Tragic (CW: Violence and Death)

During A Mental Health Crisis, A Family's Call To 911 Turns Tragic (CW: Violence and Death)
Posted on Oct 29 2020
NPR

Rulennis knew that her brother was in crisis and that he needed psychiatric care. Laws in Pennsylvania and many other states make it difficult for a family to get psychiatric care for someone who doesn't want it; it can only be imposed on the person if he or she poses an immediate threat, says Angela Kimball, national director of advocacy and public policy at NAMI. "Law enforcement comes in and exerts a threatening posture," Kimball says. "For most people, that causes them to be subdued. But if you're experiencing a mental illness, that only escalates the situation." People who have a family member with mental illness should learn what local resources are available and plan for a crisis, Kimball advises. But she acknowledges that many of the services she frequently recommends, such as crisis hotlines or special response teams for mental health, aren't available in most parts of the country. "Dialing 911 will accelerate a response by emergency personnel, most often police," she says. "This option should be used for extreme crisis situations that require immediate intervention. These first responders may or may not be appropriately trained and experienced in de-escalating psychiatric emergencies." The National Alliance on Mental Illness continues to advocate for more resources for families dealing with a mental health crisis.