The other day, I was looking through a very helpful publication entitled “What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis in Indiana,” published by NAMI Indiana. I read it before and mentioned it in a previous post entitled “What To Do in a Psychiatric Crisis,” but what struck me this time was the discussion of calling 911. If you call 911 to report a psychiatric crisis, the dispatcher is most likely to send the police, and NAMI cautions:
It is important to note that depending on the police officer involved and other contingencies, s/he may take your loved one to jail instead of to the emergency room. Be clear about what you want to have happen.
That’s excellent advice, but wouldn’t it be better if you called 911 to report a psychiatric crisis, and instead of just the police an ambulance arrived, too? After all, bipolar disorder is an illness, and ambulances have medications that can calm a person down. Also, wouldn’t someone who’s experiencing a major mood episode be more inclined to voluntarily go away in an ambulance than in a squad car? Wouldn’t it be less stigmatizing?
(Unfortunately, as my wife pointed out when I discussed this blog post with her, there’s no guarantee that the EMTs or the doctor who first sees you will give you something to “calm down.” They may refuse to give you anything, because they want the psychiatrist to see the symptoms firsthand for diagnostic purposes. That’s another topic for discussion that we’ll address in a later post.)
We’ve had the police involved twice during major manic episodes, and they handled the situation pretty well both times:
Please share your experiences of having the police respond to a psychiatric crisis or your ideas of what an ideal response would look like. What happened? What do you think should have happened? Is there anything you would have done or said differently to try to change what happened?
Ambulance photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 7 Apr 2012