National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from NAMI Tulare County

What should you do in an emergency?

Control Yourself - don't shout into the phone or at arriving officers or medical professionals.  They can't understand you if you shout.

On the phone:  Be ready to give concrete examples of the dangerous behaviors and to support your contention that the person is mentally ill.  For example, say, "My daughter pulled a knife" as opposed to "My daughter wants to kill me."

State over the phone the following information and be ready to repeat it to arriving police officers and/or medical professionals:

  • Your name.
  • Your address.
  • Family member's name.
  • Your relationship.
  • That the person is mentally ill and give the diagnosis.
  • State whether medications are being used, whether it was stopped and when was the last time the meds were taken.
  • Describe what your family member is doing now.
  • Say whether you feel threatened.
  • Say whether your family member is hearing voices or fears someone.
  • Say whether a weapon is in the house -- to minimize further agitation, remove any guns from the house before the police arrive
  • Say where inside the house is your family member
  • Say whether there is a history of violence

Until professionals arrive, you must STAY CALM and:

  • Be polite, respectful, reassuring, low-key and direct with your family member.
  • Maintain on-going communication directly with the person and do not include others in side conversations.
  • Do not try to trick or deceive your family member.
  • Avoid immediately moving in close or touching the person unless necessary.
  • Remove all objects with which a person may do harm to self or others.

When professionals arrive:

  • Have all the lights on inside the house.
  • Identify yourself.
  • Carry nothing in your hands especially coming outside to meet them, in which case walk, don't run to meet them.
  • Don't ramble.
  • Be prepared to repeat the information you gave over the phone.
  • State whether there is a history of suicide attempts.
  • State whether your family member is violent or delusional.
  • Have treating psychiatrist's phone number handy.

Source:  nami san francisco


Keep in mind...
the situation is an emergency when your family member or loved one is:

  • Inflicting or attempting to inflict serious bodily harm on another.
  •  Gravely disabled: unable to provide for own food, clothing, shelter to the extent that death, bodily injury or physical debilitation might result without treatment.
  •  Attempting suicide or behaving as though he or she intends to follow through with verbal threats.
  •  Mutilating or attempting to mutilate himself/herself.
  •  Acutely distressed by hearing or seeing things which do not exist.
  •  Expressing serious thoughts about hurting themselves or someone else
  •  Experiencing uncontrollable anxiety or anger.
  •  Having a severe reaction to psychiatric medication

NAMI Tulare County

Location: Visalia, CA
    Phone: 559-732-NAMI (6264)

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