Finding out that a person in your family has a mental health condition that limits his or her life and affects your own life can be an intimidating or even scary situation to find yourself in. When your loved one experiences situations in their life like panic attacks, anxiety attacks, or schizophrenic states, then you as a caretaker or at least as a close relative need information to be able to help that person manage these frightening episodes.
However, one of the major challenges that could be in front of you was regarding that person not allowing you to speak into their life. He or she may not be in a mental state which allows him or her to know what is in their best interest. Or, that person may be willing to allow you to make decisions on his or her behalf but the law or third parties will not allow you to for any number of reasons. To be sure, the presumption in Texas is that an adult can make decisions for him or herself when it comes to important areas of their life like their health and their living situation. If you believe that your loved one is in a position where he or she could harm himself in some way, then that situation requires you to step outside the box and potentially step up as guardian or conservator of your loved one.
What can compound the situation is that you may not have the immediate knowledge of mental health challenges to be able to make a positive difference in the life of your loved one. For most of us, having sufficient knowledge to do our day jobs, take care of a family, and be solid citizens and members of the community is about as far as we can go. To be able to help in an intimidating or even dangerous situation involving a loved one with a mental health problem is asking quite a bit of us. As a result, if you are looking for help in a situation like this then that would not be out of the ordinary.
What you cannot necessarily think is that just because your loved one has never had a mental health episode he or she can’t go through this. I’m sure that many of you reading this blog post have thought privately to yourself that your loved one has something bothering him or her that needs to be addressed by a mental health professional. For instance, someone who previously has been an extroverted, friendly member of your family may now have missed multiple family get-togethers and other social events. Their physical health may have taken a turn for the worse which in turn caused their mental health to recede along with it. In short, this is a person who was previously doing fine but now struggles with simple activities such as self-care and maintaining employment.
If this is a situation in which your loved one finds themself in a mental health crisis is not, unfortunately, something that you can assume’ll never happen to him or her. The reality of the situation is that your loved one is at risk of succumbing to a mental health crisis through no fault of their own. In many cases, your loved one suffers from a chemical imbalance or other condition that is beyond their immediate control. While medication, therapy, and other mechanisms can help treat these problems it may not be possible to eliminate them. In that case, your loved one needs you to be in their corner to provide guidance and support.
In extreme situations, you may even need to be able to step up to help make decisions on your loved one’s behalf. Nobody wants to be in that position, however. It is normal for you to find yourself wondering why, of all people, your loved one had to be the person who suffers from a mental health problem. From the perspective of yourself, you may also be wondering why you have been called upon to help your loved one in a situation like this. Many times, there was nothing that you or your loved one could have done to avoid a situation like this. However, now that it has been thrust upon you it is incumbent upon you and your family that you begin to learn as much as you can about the illness and take steps to help your loved one should a crisis develop.
What should a person do after a mental health crisis?
A person who has been through a traumatic physical event and has gone to the doctor for care will likely receive discharge instructions from a hospital to help him or her learn what to do once he or she is at home. This may involve changing bandages, eating a certain diet, stopping a certain behavior, or a combination of these things. However, the same cannot be said in many situations for people who deal with mental health crises. Another complex part of this equation is that when it comes to meeting the challenges of a mental health crisis oftentimes that challenge is met with an interaction with law enforcement rather than a mental health crisis counselor or other professional. While law enforcement will certainly do their best to make sure that your loved one would be cared for, that is not exactly their expertise.
What is a mental illness?
Mental illnesses, in a general sense, are heart conditions that make it difficult for a person to think, experience emotions, maintain or regulate their mood or function daily. Essentially, all of a person’s daily activities are impacted by this mental illness. As we see many medical conditions impact the human body, a mental illness impacts the human brain. These folks have major issues when it comes to regulating themselves and interacting with others. One of the difficult parts of this reality is that a single individual cannot be blamed for suffering a mental health episode. Certainly, a mental health crisis cannot be predicted or blamed on a person.
Individuals like your family members rely upon experienced mental health professionals to receive a diagnosis for their condition. Again, it is not as if a blood test or any other kind of exam can find a mental illness that your loved one suffers from. Many people suffer from mental illnesses or may suffer in silence and the dark for many years before an actual diagnosis can be made. All the while, he or she may struggle with their mental health and overall well-being. Therefore, if you believe that a loved one does have a mental illness it is worth talking to him or her as well as their spouse, parent, or other trusted individual. Helping him or her receive treatment sooner rather than later can be the difference between helping a person find wellness and further enabling him or her and their struggles.
When it comes to symptoms of mental health issues, it is common for many mental health symptoms to overlap as far as different diagnoses are concerned. Your cousin with post-traumatic stress disorder may have similar symptoms to a person across the street who has a major depressive disorder. With different treatment methods and different medications prescribed only for certain diagnoses, it places even more importance on ensuring that a diagnosis can be made appropriately. Helping the individual find a trustworthy mental health practitioner is of the utmost importance.
One of the first symptoms that is important to make note of is being withdrawn socially. This is one that we have talked about already in today’s blog post. When a person who used to have many hobbies now spends Most of their time staying at home and not engaging with anyone socially that could be a major telltale sign of being in the midst of a mental health crisis. The specific mental health issue could be compounded by the loss of a social network. When you start to hear a loved one talk more about themselves than anything else and to focus on their activities or struggles more than usual then this is a good sign that the person is suffering from a mental health issue of some sort. Based on the person’s situation you can also determine their struggles based on a drop in performance at work or in the classroom.
When a loved one acts out of character then that may be another sign of him or her suffering from a mental illness of some sort. A family member who is usually loving and kind suddenly becomes egotistical and downright hostile to show that he or she may be suffering from a mental illness. A flat affect and an inability to express positive emotion towards anything in their life could be a sign that he or she is suffering from mental illness. Talking to this person about their struggles may elicit a great deal of denial. However, it may be a way for you to key in on their situation to learn more about the struggles that he or she may be experiencing.
How can you better understand your loved one’s situation?
When your loved one or any other person is going through a mental health crisis that means he or she is at an increased risk of harming themselves, another person, and generally being unable to care for themselves. An inability to function in the community is another telltale sign that he or she is going through a mental health crisis. If we can understand what situations are more likely to lead to a mental health crisis as suffered by your family member, then you can do quite a bit when it comes to helping your loved one avoid negative circumstances. However, the first part of this discussion is that you need to be aware of what is going on and have your eyes and ears open.
First, you can look at your loved one’s home life and determine if he or she is suffering from a change in their relationship status with a significant other. Depending upon your relationship with the significant other or spouse you can talk to that person about changes that he or she has observed and can compare that to what you have seen. It is also possible for you’re loved one to be going through a mental health crisis because of having suffered the loss of a loved one in your family. When families have multiple deaths in quick succession then this is a fertile breeding ground for suffering a mental health crisis. Many times, traumatic events or conflicts with significant others can lead to a mental health crisis.
We have already talked about how performance at school or work can suffer because of being afflicted with mental health problems. A full-on crisis may occur if your loved one is worrying about a project that is on the horizon or a task that he or she feels unprepared for. Work and school is a major part of all of our lives. However, the difficult parts of work in school can be made easier if you have a support system. If your loved one is going through a tough time at work and does not have a support system from coworkers, then that may also bring about a mental health crisis. Many times, you will hear a person talk about how they are not understood or how their words are taken out of context. Self-confidence can take a blow if your loved one fails a class or loses their job.
What are some warning signs of a mental health crisis?
If you are aware of your loved one suffering from a mental health issue, then the next step is to help identify any warning signs that may come up if your loved one is about to go through a mental health crisis of some sort. When you see your loved one struggling to be able to perform basic activities of daily living like showering, taking care of hygiene, changing their clothes, or brushing their hair then this could be a sign that your loved one is struggling with their mental health.
Changes frequently in their mood or demeanor can also be a sign of a mental health issue. When your loved one is sad one moment and then happy the next that could be the sign of a major issue happening with him or her. Many times, you will find that your loved one either cannot help but spend most of their time lying down or sleeping or could be the exact opposite and he or she may be a bundle of energy and generally unable to stop moving or pacing around.
Another sign of mental health issues is that your loved one may be more aggressive or violent than any situation would call for. Even if your loved one is happy or otherwise acting in a jovial mood, an angry outburst or violent interaction with another person may be an indicator of him or her going through a mental health challenge. Harming themselves or others causes danger to be around every corner and it is not a leap to suggest that a mental health crisis could be in the coming.
Closing thoughts on mental health crises
Without a doubt, going through a mental health crisis alongside a loved one is not easy. You must be able to balance the well-being of yourself, your family members as well as your loved one. Learning how to take a crisis and slow the situation down to help your loved one is a challenge in and of itself. This is not exactly a skill that we would learn in school or most other places. Doing small things like keeping calm, listening, asking questions, and not making abrupt movements may be enough to take a situation down in terms of its momentum toward a crisis. These are immediate steps you can take to help your loved one while a mental health professional or law enforcement officer can arrive at the scene.
From the legal side of things, there is only so much help you can provide a person if he or she is unwilling to be helped. However, there are steps in a guardianship case where you can put the issue before a judge and cause the court to decide whether your loved one needs help making decisions for themselves. If you believe that your loved one has progressed to this stage and if you are interested in becoming a guardian of this person, then please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material that we have covered in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed guardianship attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas guardianship law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by a guardianship proceeding.