Working inside the walls of mental illness where it is a more controlled environment isn’t as scary as being the family member at home in your own settings without “Code 200” to dial and people responding in seconds.
Family who have dealt with mental illness
for many years watching someone they love struggle with the battle on the inside is as draining and exhausting as the person who is sick with the illness. As the family who are on the outside looking in feel helpless to the ones who are living with the situation. The only help you can offer is support, love and encouragement.
Mental illness has such a fine line when it comes to legal issues and how it can and needs to be handled when a crisis that has to have outside help occurs. The dignity of the person who is sick is just as important as the love ones forced into the uncomfortable situation of taking action.
The first step would be to call a support person for yourself –
Get not just one opinion but several people who are observing the same behavior. We have all had a time in our life where we get mad and pace the floor ranting over an issue. However, that may last an hour or a few hours – when it turns into days it is time to reach for help.
The first though as a nurse is what they have taken, are they drinking and what was the trigger that brought on the behavior change. Rarely will a person who is under the influence of a chemical admit they have a problem or anything is wrong with them. At that moment, they feel as if everything is under control and all the thoughts in their head are valid.
Spending 23 years inside a state funded mental hospital as a nurse
I have seen and heard a lot of stories. There is comfort in knowing that a plan is in place when someone has a crisis under the roof of a hospital. When you are not at the hospital and they are out in the community the crisis looks a little differently. Just a phone call away in the hospital is a Doctor to order extra medication to help calm them down.
Just a phone call away a code can be called and people will come running to assist. Just a phone call away is help you can depend on. The moment you’re standing face to face with an acting out of control ranting raving person. The reality of what mental illness becomes very clear – scary and can be dangerous.
The call came from a family that respects the time of night to call our home, and the tone of the voice on the other end was straight to the point, stern, and needed someone’s help. I asked what can they do for a 60-year-old man was walking up and down the road screaming at the top of his lungs threatening to curse and agitated. He had not slept for 3-4 days, he was talking about things they did not understand.
With a little bit of encouragement they were able to get him on the phone to talk to me, I should say at me – because his pressured speech, ranting, rambling delusions were talking so fast I did not have time to say more than “Ugh I hear you” Before he handed the phone to his wife. ” I spoke to her on the phone calmly, but sternly and said, “You have more on your hands than you can handle alone.
Call the police – I am on my way.” Hanging up the phone grabbing my purse and driving for 35 minutes to get to the scene I found a scared wife standing on the porch with a wild-eyed husband sitting on the table of the front porch. I approached the porch at the same time the police officer did.
We listened for 20 minutes as he told his story, much of it true, mixed with “there are people out to kill me – I don’t know why and I can’t tell to protect the family”. Looking at his tired and exhausted eyes, the wildness that sat behind them was not slowing down because a police officer was there.
After much effort of the young police officer to understand his point to the rambling story – the man decided he was going to bed he was tired. The officer asks him to sit back down, but now with a new focus in mind he went to the house against the officers request.
What was a simple conversation turned into a moment of aggression that happened in seconds? The officer reached for him and he pulled away in the attempt to run. All I could see was the red beaming light and the officer’s body language, voice and posture changed. Then I saw what he had held in his hand pointing straight in his back – a taser gun.
I pushed the wife out of the view of the scene (just like I would do at the hospital move all onlookers) and turned to call the man’s name “LISTEN TO HIM GET DOWN!” For a moment, we locked eyes and he knelt down by the table as the officer placed handcuffs around each wrist. The man looked at me in a much calmer voice and said, “I am so sorry, I am so sorry, I did not mean for this to happen I was trying to protect the family”
My head was spinning as if I was watching a scene from “cops” except this was real and it was more emotional watching someone you know personally suffer from a mental break of rational behavior.
Handcuffed sitting on the table
He began to calm down still sharing his story. The police officer asks to speak to me and I gave him our request of what we would like to see happen – he agreed – now to get this person to understand that he needed help. It was not working.
After hours or ranting, pacing, cursing, rambling, disorganized thoughts – the battle was raging inside. The war was not one anyone at this moment could win – and the danger of being in the home of someone in this condition made me appreciate the team of professionals that I am privileged to work with daily.
The police have an important job of dealing with hostile people daily – not always with enough backup. The family feels helpless as a loved one who is sick but doesn’t yet agree. Getting help is not always easy and obtaining an MI (mental illness warrant) is not the easy road either.
The system is set up to protect us and individuals from being pulled into a wrongful situation, but there are the times when everyone knows that this person needs to have something done for them – but have to wait for the person who needs help the most to agree.
Living inside the battle zone
Feeling misunderstood, scared and angry at the same time, feeling unsafe and threatened is a dark place to be plus feeling alone. Mental illness affects the family – not just the person who has the illness. It takes lots of education on the family’s part to understand and learn how to take care of them.
If you have someone with mental illness stay strong – they need you when they can’t be.