Monday, January 12, 2015

How to fail at getting someone the help they need, while really trying

When person's mania tips into full-blown psychosis, call friend with similar condition to decide whether to call 9-1-1. Call 9-1-1. Explain the screams, the delusions, the rantings to the operator and again to the police and firemen. Everyone sees person is acting crazy and is in need of help (and clothing), but that the person won't come to the door voluntarily and, although throwing onto the floor every item in the place while yelling, does not appear to be holding a weapon and does not appear to be hurt. All emergency personnel say there is nothing they can do and they leave.

Call the psychologist and leave detailed report of the above on voice mail. No response. (Duh, HIPAA.) No apparent instruction for involuntary treatment at next appointment with patient.

Call the Crisis Line, then Crisis Resolution Services, and hear again (and again) that unless person is an "imminent" threat to themselves or others or are willing to seek treatment voluntarily, they cannot do anything, either.

Hear from numerous other members of the community that person is clearly not well, not on prescribed medication, and needing treatment. Hear of suicide threat, call 9-1-1 again, only to be told that is not enough, because suicide threat was two days ago and not today, so no imminent threat.

Hear of numerous shoplifting events, but of clerks sympathetically paying for stolen items from their own pockets. Lost opportunities for contact with authorities that may or may not have led to help.

Long-suffering, patient saint of a person convinces ill person to seek treatment, requests call from psychologist to speed admission. No call evident. Saint cannot wait for hours in emergency room (has a job to go to), leaves the ER trusting patient will be admitted to hospital and treatment. Ill person leaves the ER of own accord.

In the meantime, wait for mentally ill person to come to realization of the need for resumed treatment (may take months), wait for Legislature to act to reduce standard from "imminent" threat to "substantial" likelihood of harm to self or others or grave disability (may take years), and wait for some disaster to befall person, self, or others when everyone can see person needs help (except for person) and yet no one is able to offer any until things spin gradually further and further out of control and person's life deteriorates (is happening every day).

In the meantime, when it comes to helping someone with severe mental health problems in Washington state, ask and you will not receive, knock and it will not be opened to you. If you should happen, yourself, to desperately need mental health treatment someday, rest assured that though your friends will all rush to try to help you, they will all be told "no" at every turn, as the authorities allow your condition to go from bad to worse and allow your life to fall apart, possibly even completely and forever, all the time refusing to help you when you need it most—and when you are least able to recognize it. Despite your support network of family and friends, the state leaves you flying and without a net.

It will be of no comfort to anyone to mourn your loss and to appear in the inevitable news stories afterwards saying to the impotent authorities, "I told you so."

The Legislature must fix this now, before more damage is done to more lives and before even more lives are lost.