I’ve decided, after this most recent, for lack of a better word, psychotic episode it is not always best to call 911 or go to the ER. But then what do you do?
The last time we had to call 911 and the cops came, they treated son with no respect, as if he had robbed a bank or deserved what was happening to him. That time they took his (full rx) meds and his (brand new) shoes with them. The meds and shoes did not return with Son.
This time I called 911 both the paramedics and the cops showed up. The medics came, looked Son over and left. Three 6′ cops surround Son, agitating him further. They told us we were agitating him and pushed husband and I from the room. They practically searched his room, picking things up, reading mail. And once the cops are there: you have no control over the situation.
I felt a twinge of how it must feel to be a person of color when they interact with the police. Only a tiny taste, but it struck me how the police do that. Push everyone out, take control and then haul your son away like a criminal, leaving bruises on his arms, scraped skin around his wrists and a badly pulled tendon in his shoulder. Which is almost no injury at all, but they don’t care that they injure you this mildly, let alone shoot you.
The cops DO NOT know how to handle people with anything nearing empathy or compassion. It appears that they are not trained in diffusing or de-escalating a situation, especially in the case of an addict or mental health patient. In our particular situation I now know that Son needed to calm down, instead we ended up working him into a frenzy of frustration and anger. By the time the cops arrived, he looked positively crazed. I’ll never forget the look he gave me when the police took him away. I’ll never forgive myself for causing him that kind of pain.
So I ask you, why would I call 911 the next time? I mean, fool me twice, but then who should I call? I discovered, too late, that my county has a service that will send out a social worker team that will come to your home and assess the situation, and work with the family to alleviate the crisis. Many times avoiding police involvement or trips to the hospital. This is a fabulous service, and one I did not know existed. Their number is in my phone now, on speed-dial. I urge everyone to see if they have this type of service where you live.
I make one suggestion to the 911 system, add another question; “Police, Fire department or mental health emergency.” I think that would be a huge huge help to people who find themselves in similar situations. The service could even pair up a social worker with a police officer, specially trained where his first impulse is NOT to shoot.
Rather than make this post too long, I won’t write about ER staff and their treatment of mental health patients. Suffice to say they are not much better than the cops. Again, having a psychiatrist on staff at all times and the staff trained to at least recognize someone who is obviously in a crazed state would go far in alleviating the problem. Those of us with mental health issues , when in crisis, should be treated with as much urgency as a heart attack.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services: (SAMHSA), a federal source of information and help for those in need of mental health or addiction issues.
National Association for Mental Illness: (NAMI)