(June 14, 2013) I don’t know about other parents, but when my daughter is in psychiatric crisis, my brain turns to mush.
It doesn’t matter how many times I go through this experience or how recently I’ve reviewed the civil commitment laws and standards in her state. At the height of a crisis, fear and dread flush every last particle of memory from my mind and transform me into a terror-stricken, paralyzed mom.
The last time this happened was two weeks ago. After more than a year of stability and soaring accomplishment, my darling daughter suddenly veered into mania that, for her, inevitably is followed by psychosis. Thankfully, there was a caring and capable adult on call, but the episode unfolded late on a Friday night more than 2,500 miles away. I had to respond by remote control.
As my stand-in described how my daughter was acting, my brain turned to mush. You know how we tell our little children to "remember your words"? I couldn't remember my words.
But then I remembered the Psychiatric Crisis Resources mobile app we had released literally days earlier that I had saved to my smartphone screen.
I opened the app.
I tapped “Emergency Evaluation” and chose her state.
I read this: “A person may be taken into custody … (or) detained (for emergency evaluation upon) reason to believe that the person is gravely disabled due to mental illness….”
I hit “Back” to return to the menu and and tapped “Inpatient/Outpatient Criteria” to read the "gravely disabled" definition.
And there it was: If “there is a substantial risk (she) will continue to physically, emotionally or mentally deteriorate to the point that the person will, in the reasonably near future, be in danger….”
My daughter was gravely disabled. She not only should but could under the law be detained for an emergency psych evaluation.
I read the language to my stand-in so she knew what to tell authorities. She managed to coax my daughter into the car and drove her to the ER; we would have called police if that hadn't worked. In the ER, she used the words I'd read to her, and my daughter was admitted for evaluation. She was hospitalized overnight and transferred the next day to the local psychiatric facility for care.
At the Treatment Advocacy Center, we’re always looking for ways to make treatment more accessible to people who need it - as soon as they need it, not dangerously later. We thought equipping families with mobile psych crisis tools might help.
I never anticipated the circumstances that very likely made me one of the first people to use our newest tool. Those of us who live on hope never really do.
But I'm so grateful it was there for me, and I'm sharing this story because we family members need all the help we can get, and our mobile app might help you or someone you know, too.
This is a happy-ending story with a darker lining. My daughter got timely, needed treatment over the next 10 days and has been released, stabilized and symptom-free.
But she lives in what we call a need-for-treatment state. That means she got treatment because she met conditions that demonstrated she needed it to avoid becoming dangerous, not because she already was. Only about half our states have need-for-treatment laws. We need better laws, and we need the states with good laws to use them. Our loved ones' lives depend on them.
Please download our app and save it to your smartphone screen. If you know someone with a severe mental illness, you never know when it might put the words you need in a crisis at your fingertips.
And then look up your state. How broad is its law? Would it enable you to get your family member or friend or neighbor care in a crisis?
If not, help us improve your law. Here are a few ways.
DORIS A. FULLER
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