policecrpdYesterday, I served on a panel of family members who have loved ones with mental illness, where we talked to a room full of police officers (approximately 30 of them) as part of their crisis intervention team (CIT) training. NAMI-WCI (West Central Indiana) provided the training.

As I prepared my story for the presentation, I realized that I am never the one who calls 911 when my wife is experiencing a manic episode. My wife has always been the one to call, usually because she is experiencing paranoia and psychosis and feels the need to call the police for protection.

This made me wonder… why? If my wife fell down the stairs or collapsed in the kitchen, I wouldn’t hesitate to call 911 for help, but when she’s in the throes of mania, a serious medical emergency, I don’t call for help. Why? Well, I came up with the following list of possibilities:

  • When I ask my wife if she wants to go to the hospital or needs to see her doctor or therapist, she usually tells me, “No.” (Of course, this makes me wonder why I accept this answer when she’s manic. Maybe I’m just a slow learner.)
  • I’m too proud, thinking that we can handle the situation ourselves. (Occasionally, we do manage to pull out of a tailspin with medication and lifestyle adjustments.)
  • I’m ashamed that my family has mental illness. I’m pretty much past this now, but I think that maybe subconsciously, the whole “What will the neighbors think?” question finds its way into my internal dialogue.
  • I re-enter the denial stage that we talk about in our NAMI support group meetings, hoping against hope that the symptoms will magically disappear, and everything will be okay.
  • I’m afraid that my wife or I will be arrested and taken to jail, even though this has never happened.
  • I’m afraid that my wife will blame me for having her “committed.” Even when I realize that hospitalization is necessary, I have a terrible time making that decision. Fortunately, in our situation, the doctor has, on occasion, stepped in and taken the decision off my plate.
  • I’m not sure when to step in or step back… the situation might escalate over several days, and I’m just not sure at what point we’re actually in crisis stage.
  • In some cases, family members try to get help for their loved one but the legal system gets in the way. This hasn’t been the case for me; usually, I’m the one getting in my own way.

Is it me? Am I the only one who hesitates to dial 911 when my loved one is experiencing a manic episode? Please share your experiences and insights.

Police officer photo available from Shutterstock