Because most parents love their children, it’s natural to worry over what we should do in case something bad happens to them. But while most of us think about scenarios that involve physical harm, like accidents on the way to school, few parents think about what should be done if their child has a psychiatric event, such as a panic attack or psychotic break.
Unfortunately, these events are not uncommon, especially when a child has an undiscovered underlying mental health condition or has been regularly misusing drugs and alcohol. Knowing what to do in these instances can be almost as important as knowing what to do in case of events that bring physical harm like a broken arm or a car crash.
Dos and Don’ts of Mental Health Interventions for Your Child
Below are some simple dos and don’ts of how to handle mental health interventions involving your child. If you’re in North Texas and you suspect drug and alcohol use, you can call Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to discuss your immediate options.
- Argue. This will likely be pointless as they won’t be rational.
- Force them to do anything unless they’re about to harm themselves or others.
- Let uninvolved people into the room.
- Joke or laugh at the situation.
- Shout at them. This can escalate the potential for violence.
- Trivialize their concerns.
- Show annoyance or irritation.
- Touch them without asking or unless you are sure it’s safe. Unexpected touching might lead to surprised outbursts.
- Make them decide on anything confusing.
- Use drugs or alcohol when interacting with them, even to placate them.
- Antagonize them.
- Lie to them or deceive them. This can destroy their trust in you and make it difficult to stay involved in their treatment and recovery.
- Call the police if there is no criminal activity involved. It may escalate the possibility of more violence.
- Restrain them unless you are trained to do it safely. Improperly restraining a person can lead to permanent injury, additional suffering, or death.
- Use guilt or threats i.e. “you will go to hell if you keep doing this” or “you will be a burden on others” etc.
- Call a professional interventionist or mental health professional as soon as you can.
- Calmly express concern.
- Keep yourself from being too emotional.
- Tell them you are there to help.
- Acknowledge everything they are saying.
- Acknowledge hallucinations or delusions by steering the topic towards their feelings.
- Keep other household members from adding to the confusion.
- Talk slowly and deliberately.
- Give them the space they need to express themselves.
- Move slowly to avoid scaring them.
- Avoid giving them complex choices. Keep it to two easy-to-consider options at the most.
- Be helpful without enabling their mental health issues.
- Reassure them that you are there to help.
- Be nonjudgmental.
You may check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s recommended guidelines for behavioral health interventions for more detailed information.
Why Consider Contacting a Professional Interventionist?
Intervention experts are trained to facilitate interventions for serious mental health issues, including substance use disorders. Here are some reasons you may want to consider getting one for a child undergoing a difficult mental health issue.
1.) They can keep everyone in check. Seeing someone undergo a serious mental health episode can be an emotional experience in itself. When emotions run high, you or other family members who are untrained in handling mental health issues can easily exacerbate the situation. Having a professional mental health expert on hand can prevent this from happening.
2.) They can educate you and other family members on issues specific to your child. If your child has a preexisting mental health condition, everyone in the household must understand what should be done to prevent their condition from worsening. While a parent can relay this information to their spouse or other children, it may be helpful to hear things straight from a qualified mental health professional.
3.) They may help improve the chances of your child voluntarily seeking help. Their training can help your child get into the mental healthcare system early on, improving the chance of positive outcomes and reducing the trauma and expense of complex treatment.
4.) They can prevent further harm to everyone involved. Interventionists are specifically trained to address critical issues like potential suicides or violence towards others. If you suspect that your child may harm themselves or others, getting a professional to handle the intervention is likely going to be the best choice.
Find Immediate Help for Mental Health Issues
If your child is undergoing a situation that may be life-threatening, you can call 911 for immediate emergency assistance. You can also try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or through their online chat service.
If the situation is less immediate, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-877-726-4727, Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM EST, to locate local intervention services that can help your child.