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Hi! My name is Ada Tseng. She is the deputy editor of the LA Times Utility She Journalism Team (“Useful News”). She stands in for Laura Newbery.
I worked with a reporter last year. Agnes Constantfor the Los Angeles Times, led a project investigating mental health and the forces affecting it in the Filipino-American community.
Before she reports each story in the series, we hosted listening sessions with mental health providers, academics, and community members from across the country. They shared so many insights with us that many didn’t fit into her story.
One of the most memorable lessons was that karaoke (and singing in general) can be self-care. This convinced The Times that it could do more with karaoke journalism. (Taylor Swift karaoke is even better.)
But in another, more surprising off-the-record conversation that struck me, several participants recounted their futile experiences calling emergency helplines in the midst of a mental health crisis. .
The idea of asking for help as a last resort and not getting the help I needed was an intolerable reality. Last July, I was grateful to hear that LA County launched 988, a national mental health hotline that is easy to remember to replace her 911, and that my colleague Lyra Seidman is investigating its effectiveness.
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Mental health crises are hard to get over. But on the Utility Journalism team, we are a very hands-on bunch. We want to tell you the story, but more than that, we want you to feel that you’re done with us and that there was something you could do about it.
Let’s talk about the challenges surrounding crisis response and the steps you can take to respond effectively when the time comes.
Debate Over Response to Mental Health Crisis
Until recently, 911 was the default place to call for emergency help during a crisis. But such calls are also frequently brought to law enforcement, fueling a growing debate among mental health advocates about whether the police should be tasked with responding to mental health crises. there is If not, who should?
One statistic cited by Seidman in the report estimates that about 40% of those killed by police officers have a mental health crisis.
988 is part of a new mental health crisis system that has made the county less reliant on law enforcement, which is being developed. Callers and emailers connect with her 24/7 listeners trained to talk about mental health crises. California’s response is available in English and Spanish and is led by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.
In the first 11 months since the launch of the 988, Reported by Diddy Hirsch 98% of the approximately 280,000 calls, text messages and chats were resolved without the need for additional support. Police were called in some cases.
Seidman analyzed four years of time response data for mobile crisis teams while reporting on 988 deployments in Los Angeles and associated psychiatric emergency services.
I attended her webinar this week.Tackling the Mental Health Crisis in Los Angeles — Can We Do It Without the Police?” (too available in spanish. )
Zoom Panel — Features Mara and Dave Thomashost of the Mental Health Mondays podcast, a NAMI SFV program. Michelle Paris, Bella Institute Program Director.and Jennifer HolmanAlternate Crisis Response Manager, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health — focused on how these changes affect people with severe mental health conditions and their loved ones.
Envisioning a more compassionate, responsive system is complex, panelists reiterated.
The ideal scenario is a future where dialing 988 for a mental health crisis is as ubiquitous, automatic and effective as dialing 911 in an emergency. That way, law enforcement isn’t the only one to respond.
“County officials have no intention of completely removing the police from responding to mental health crises,” Seidman previously reported. “They are looking to scale down and refine the role of law enforcement so that it can only respond to the most dangerous and precarious situations.”
Marla and Dave Thomas said they come from communities that don’t trust police officers. Paris added that even if police officers were trained in de-escalation, their presence could exacerbate the distress of those at risk and their families.
But Marla Thomas notes that in her experience of working through her sons’ diagnosis (diagnosed with Bipolar I Schizoaffective Disorder), her sons sometimes struggle with their relationships. He also said that there was something. In situations where there was a threat of violence, 911 was the only way the family could control the situation.
Suffering from mental illness and needing help is not a crime, Holman said. There is no reason for someone in a mental health crisis to be handcuffed and put in the back seat of her police car on the way to the hospital, she added. But even with mental health professionals doing the best they can, sometimes it’s not safe to continue operating without law enforcement backing up.
How to respond to a mental health crisis
In the current system, people still often choose to seek emergency assistance, including the police.
Marla Thomas wanted participants to understand her situation as a mother. Even though she was concerned for her own safety, her primary concern was always the safety of her son, who sought her assistance.
She needed a plan in case the police or someone who didn’t understand her son’s situation came to her house during a mental health crisis. Here are some of her tips.
- Make sure no one else is home before the police come. This creates clear boundaries for police to deal with individuals in distress.
- She met the police a short distance from her home. She raises her hands up and down and does her best to make it clear that they are coming to her home and that she and they are on the same team.
- She calmly and clearly provides them with all the information they deem necessary. She told them her son could not get any weapons. She explains that what her son wants most is to be heard.
- If the presence of the police increased her son’s stress, she asked the police to pick two people to go inside. One person told all the stories and the other advised to do the safety and back up of the first person.
- When she is sure they have all the information, she steps back and lets them handle the situation.
Thomas said this was the plan that worked best for her family. This neutralized the threat and allowed her son to cooperate and receive the treatment he needed.
Holman encouraged people at risk of a mental health crisis (or loved ones who want to help them) to create a psychiatric advance directive, also known as PAD. It is a document that prepares you for what may happen when you are healthy and when you are not, and is tailored to your individual needs. This can include words that escalate or escalate the situation. Which medicine works and which doesn’t? And who should be the decision maker in place of the person in crisis?
Please share the plan with your loved ones if you like.
You can also discuss your family situation with your neighbors to recognize what is normal and what is not for you and your loved ones.
Marla Thomas said she has been open with her neighbors about her son’s condition. She wants him to know that he may be walking around talking to himself, but he doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. She said that having these conversations removes an element of fear and uncertainty.
Sharing these plans also creates a care team for vulnerable loved ones when you’re not around, allowing people to be part of your journey, says Dave Thomas. added Mr.
Please be careful.
If what you learned today from these experts impacted you, or if you’d like to talk about your own experience, email us and share your thoughts with the larger group therapy community. Please let me know if it’s okay. e-mail GroupTherapy@latimes.com Our team will reach out to you shortly.
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Additional Perspectives on Today’s Topics and Other Resources
try this pad template created by National Resource Center for Psychiatric Advance Directives, If you need a starting point.
What rights do patients have? This LA Times commentator details how involuntary mental health treatment works and the rights patients have.
What would you do if you saw someone in a mental health crisis? Times reporter Faith Pinho explains how to recognize when a stranger (or loved one) is in emotional distress, and how to help without causing harm.
other interesting stuff
How the sounds of singing bowls, gongs and chimes feel like a “brain massage”. Times reporter Deborah Netburn takes you behind the scenes at the Soundbus at a church in Koreatown. Read more about how a traditional chapel was reborn into a vibrant, flickering cosmic sanctuary.
Roller skating, dancing and longboarding for mental health. Times columnist Jean Guerrero writes about how regular meetings with strangers and safe community spaces are important to our well-being.
Cartoon about Puerto Ricoanswer exploring spirituality. Artist Cindy Rosito shares the first in a series of interviews called “Si Dios Quiere (God Willing)” at De Ros, an LA Times effort exploring all things Latinidad.
definition of delusion. Psychiatrist and UCLA professor Alaina Barnes wrote about how it’s becoming harder to separate the delusions of schizophrenics from today’s digital reality.
“A bird’s song is as ephemeral as a morning glory’s bloom.” Reporter Dakota Kim writes about connecting with nature through birdwatching, listening to birds, and recording birdsong.
Plants are great for self-care. Reporter Anna Braz writes about a greenhouse in her backyard on the east side of Torrance. It is a sanctuary and a place of healing.
How pickleball helped calm down someone who lacked composure. Read about how author Kate Spencer taught you how to stop “sorry” and have fun at pickleball.
Group therapy is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your mental health, we encourage you to seek the advice of a mental health professional or other qualified health care provider.