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What Is Considered A Psychiatric Emergency?
Learn what to do if a loved one suffers a mental health emergency.
Most of us do not realize how fragile our mental health is. We may hum along, able to handle life’s ups and downs… until one day we just can’t. When a mental health crisis happens most of us are simply not prepared.
There are different levels of mental illness. The most common types are depression and anxiety disorders. Although these can be often managed through therapy and meds, sometimes the condition will worsen and get beyond our control. The level of the illness has reached a sudden and severe state.
Learn about what to do if someone you care about, or yourself, has a mental health breakdown. Know that there is help available when you need expert care.
What is a Mental Health Crisis?
When someone is having a mental health crisis they will display overt signs of psychological distress. These signs and symptoms can cause the person’s health to decline and impairment of function.
There are many reasons why someone may have a mental health breakdown. Some will have a current mental health issue that becomes much more severe in a short time frame. In some cases the meds are no longer keeping the symptoms in check, thus the increase in severity. Others may have experienced a serious life event, like the sudden death of a child or spouse, which triggers the crisis.
Signs of a Coming Psychiatric Emergency
A mental health crisis does not just happen out of the blue. There are early signs of trouble, and then these signs begin to worsen. When you start to notice the warning signs of a mental breakdown, you should guide your loved one to a mental health expert for assessment. Some of the signs of a pending mental health crisis and psychiatric emergency include:
- Impaired functioning.
- Feelings of being watched.
- Mental confusion.
- Auditory and visual hallucinations.
- Losing touch with reality.
- Strange or confused speech or writing.
- Inappropriate behavior.
- Avoids social settings.
- Decline in work performance.
- Unusual body movements.
- Paranoid behavior.
- Severe mood swings.
- Irrational or angry behaviors.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Intrusive thoughts.
- Violent behaviors.
- Loss of interest in appearance and hygiene.
- Personality changes.
- Suicide attempts.
A mental health worker will use some of the assessment tools, such as questionnaires and the DSM-5, to arrive at a diagnosis. In the case of an extreme breakdown, acute stabilization is the prime focus.
Why It’s Better to Get Help Voluntarily
There are two types of acute psychiatric care: voluntary and involuntary. When someone becomes a danger to themselves or others they must be admitted to treatment without delay.
It is always better if the loved one goes in for treatment willingly instead of being forced to go. But when the person is not able to tell how ill they are, you will need to guide him or her to treatment.
Some of the reasons why it is best to accept treatment willingly include:
- It is a smoother process to enter treatment of your own volition than to be admitted during an emergency event.
- There is less stigma attached to a voluntary admit versus involuntary.
- The person will feel more in control if they self-admit.
- The person is more trusting of the mental health caregivers when they self-admit.
- It is less traumatic.
If your loved one is showing the signs of a pending mental health crisis, try to convince them to seek help on their own before the problem worsens.
Treatment for a Mental Health Crisis
There are certain levels of care available for treating mental health disorders. These include outpatient care and inpatient care. Within the inpatient care model there are also different levels of care. Hospital care would be the highest standard of care for someone with a severe mental health psychiatric emergency, although inpatient treatment centers also offer acute stabilization.
When someone is in the throes of a mental health emergency they will need to be closely observed and require 24/7 support. Meds will be prescribed, as well as therapy. In some cases the person may need to be restrained to protect themselves or health care workers.
Some people will start off at the higher level of care and then step down to an inpatient treatment program. These programs provide a safe place for healing to take place.
Treatment will include:
- Meds. A broad range of meds can be selected from to help manage the symptoms of the mental health disorder. In many cases, the person is already on psych meds and needs to have these adjusted. The drugs are prescribed to help improve their quality of life.
- Psychotherapy. There are different types of therapies for treating mental health disorders. The best fit will be used for the mental health challenge that is present. Therapy sessions are offered daily, and group sessions are also very common. The most common are CBT, psychodynamic therapy, interpersonal therapy, DBT, and exposure therapy.
- Holistic methods. To augment treatment effects, holistic methods such as mindfulness, yoga classes, art therapy, and massage are included in the program. These activities help the person to learn how to calm themselves and reach a tranquil state of mind.
The length of stay will depend on the diagnosis, and the progress made while in treatment. Some may be able to step down to outpatient care in a matter of weeks, while others may do better with a longer stay in inpatient care.
A case manager can also assign and coordinate other services to augment outpatient treatment after discharge. Many of these are social services that assist the person with daily tasks they may not yet be able to tackle.
If your loved one is showing the symptoms of a mental health struggle, don’t ignore the signs. You can offer support by guiding them toward the treatment they need before the mental health issue becomes a psychiatric emergency.
Palm Springs Behavioral Health Offers Acute Stabilization
Palm Springs Behavioral Health provides a full range of psychiatric treatment and levels of care for mental health disorders. For more details about the program, please call our team today at (888) 312-4262.