I have been REALLY hesitant to write about this. It’s not because it’s not a vitally important topic, but I have been hesitant because I honestly have no idea what I’m talking about. I am a white, middle class, protestant woman. I am really blessed and honored and often naïve to social issues because of my background. There’s a big part of me that feels like I have no right to write about this because of the reasons I listed above.
But, with being a mental health professional and living in Rochester, NY (which has now made international news)…..I felt as though I would be doing a disservice by NOT addressing some of the issues that are going on in our world today. I am not here to tell you my opinion or pretend like I know what I’m talking about. But I wanted to explain that the reasons I am not posting on social media or openly talking about this is not because I don’t care and not because I don’t have strong feelings that I am advocating for in my personal life. I just feel that as long as I am doing my part, advocating in my own ways, and supporting organizations that I feel strongly for…that it isn’t appropriate for me to post about things on social media.
So now that we’ve established that I have no clue what I’m talking about and that even though I’m not posting about this on social media, I am doing things in my personal life…the one thing that I do know about that I feel like I can contribute to this conversation is about mental health.
A mental health arrest is a precaution of safety that can be really great and really scary. A mental health arrest, or mental hygiene arrest occurs when someone is deemed not safe. When someone is deemed a danger or threat to themselves or others. For those of you who have been to therapists, you have signed paperwork acknowledging that a therapist will break confidentiality if you are a threat to yourself or others.
I unfortunately have been involved in many mental health arrests throughout my professional life. What I am about to share is what has happened for me. This can look different for different people, across different states, and different scenarios.
What typically happens (again in my experience) is that a client is presenting as a threat. I have always told the client that they’re presenting as a threat, that I’m worried about their safety, and that I think I need to call 911 because of it. Clients react typically in one of two ways.
The first way is that the client understands and agrees that they do not feel safe. I then call 911. An ambulance arrives with EMT’s and the client is taken to the nearest hospital to have a psychiatric evaluation. Sometimes the client is then admitted to the psychiatric unit at the hospital, sometimes the client is assessed and then released home.
The second way that I have had clients react is not as nice. Clients often take this news poorly, especially if that client happens to be under the influence of a mood-altering chemical. I have been yelled at, spit at, threatened, and intimidated. When this happens and I call 911, I let the dispatcher know the state of the client, and a police officer will accompany the EMTs. I have seen clients run away from said police officer, yell at, spit at, threaten, etc. When this happens, the police officer will usually handcuff the client and the client will then get into the ambulance against their will and be taken to the hospital.
There are so many issues with this process. There are so many areas of improvement for this process. I don’t know what happens when someone is assessed as a threat to themselves or others and needs to be mental health arrested (which that needs to be renamed, I mean come on, saying they’re being arrested is horrible) when they are not around a mental health counselor such as myself, but I know that there is no job that exists of an “on call” mental health counselor, similar to an EMT that responds to these events.
I think that people who are having mental health struggles need to be treated with dignity and respect but being a threat to themselves or others needs to be addressed so that people can stay safe…..how to do this? I’m not sure. I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that I am always advocating for appropriate and respectful treatment of those experiencing mental health struggles. I am also always advocating for the safety of people with mental health concerns and those around them.
I also know that I am always here to talk. I am here to teach about mental health and psychology and I am here to learn about you, your own struggles, your views, learn things that will help me be a better therapist and person, and to help support you however I can.