Thursday, August 31, 2017

What to Say When Calling 911 for a Mental Health Emergency

Mental health emergencies that are critical require immediate intervention. When self-harm, suicidal risk or violence is evident, calling 911 is THE best intervention. Often, I'm asked what kinds of things to say when calling 911. Here are some tips that are recommended by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When calling 911, try to remain calm and make the call out of earshot from your loved one. As the call connects, identify who you are, and then the location of the emergency. Give the street address, cross streets. "My name is John Smith. I'm at 10 Oak Street. Closest cross street is Acorn."

Describe the nature of the mental health emergency to the dispatcher. This way, the dispatcher can alert the appropriate emergency teams to the scene. Start with a short description. "My brother, Dan, is threatening suicide. He's in his room. And it's locked."

Be ready to give more information about the emergency. The dispatcher will likely ask you for your loved one's name, gender, height, weight, race, clothing being worn or any other identifying data.  You might be asked if there are any weapons in the house. If medication is prescribed or if other lethal means have been accessed. 

Also, you should also identify yourself and your relationship to your loved one to the dispatcher. This includes whether you're a friend or family member. Answering the dispatchers questions will help determine which emergency response team is needed for the crisis. Often, communities have Crisis Intervention Teams to respond to a situation like this.

Finally, be prepared to stay on the phone with the dispatcher while an emergency team makes it's way to your loved one. 

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