Handling and Treating Psychiatric Emergencies Part 2

A list of instruction and tips to help you handle a psychiatric emergency.

Handling Psychiatric Emergencies

6. Let the other person tell you in his own way what's wrong. Don't make him follow your rules. Don't get him to "act out his feelings" or do things you learned in some groovy encounter group. This isn't fun and games: If you're trying to help a sister or brother through a trying time, you'd better accept the responsibility that goes with that.

7. People become disturbed in different ways. Some are horribly depressed; some in a state of panic; some violent; some confused and irrational; some incomprehensible. Almost everyone in an emotional crisis is terrified of LOSING CONTROL. They want to feel some kind of support, some kind of protection. Try to give them that.

Try to talk in as quiet a place as possible; if you can see them again, let them know that, and do it. If you can help them deal with their problem without losing control (and humiliating themselves), you are doing good work. (At some future time they may want to relax their control: but they'll do it some place that is protective.)

8. In the same line of thought, if you feel they are out of control, or that they are too much for you to deal with, don't pretend you can do what you can't do. Decide on bringing someone with more experience to see them, or think about a hospital.

Many people are horrified of mental hospitals. You and your friends should know which hospitals in your area are good and which are atrocious; which shrinks are sympathetic and which are absolute pigs.

If a friend is too disturbed for you to handle, get him to someone who can help him calm down or to a hospital. It's foolish to take chances with people's lives, especially if they are dangerous to themselves or others.

Don't get hung up on the rhetoric of we-should-all-be-able-to-take-care-of-one-another. Sometimes we simply can't. Then it's good to know what your options are.

9. Tell people what you're doing. Don't mystify them. Don't make phone calls behind their backs, or agree with them when you're planning something else. No matter how flipped out someone is, there's always a part of him that's aware of reality: Speak to that part, and he'll respond.

10. If you start feeling bored, try to focus in on the problem. That's where you should be anyway. What's going on? How can you help? How can they help themselves? Do they need a hospital? a shrink? medication? (Although medicines are grossly abused, sometimes they're useful: especially if they can keep a sister or brother out of the hospital.) What is the real problem, and what are their options?

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