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6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency

I've lost count of how many mental health emergencies Sunshine has gone through over the years, and she's not even eleven years old yet.

Every single one of those mental health emergencies has affected every single person in our family in big ways. During these situations, Sunshine's definitely not the only one who needed help.

We would not have been okay, had it not been for the help of friends, acquaintances, and sometimes perfect strangers.

This morning I was contacted by a follower, wondering what she could do to help a close friend, who's family is going through a mental health emergency right now.

Here I will share 6 ways to help a family going through a mental health emergency, based on my own experiences.

6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency

6 Ways to Help a Family Going Through a Mental Health Emergency


6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency: Money

If your family has never experienced a mental health emergency before, you have NO IDEA how expensive it is, even if the person who is not okay has Medicaid.

Travel to and from the hospital ER, psychiatric facility or other location is expensive and required.

Caregivers often need to take time off of work during these difficult times, losing pay they would otherwise have, that's already allotted to other expenses.

There are so many required appointments during a mental health emergency. All require gas, transportation, and that you actually be there.
This doesn't even begin to cover extra food expenses that come up while you're traveling. 

It also doesn't include any necessary items for the patient having the mental health emergency, or for the caregiver who may be required to stay with the patient until she is stable.

A mental health emergency turns a family's financial situation upside down. Many of our family mental health emergencies have also required hotel stays. Every expense adds up so quickly.

If you can, donate cash to help the family in need. It is the number one thing they will need during a time like this.


6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency: Food

When there is a mental health emergency in the family, everything else takes a backseat, including meals. Caregivers may be at the hospital ER with the patient waiting for a bed to open up for days or weeks. 

There are limited psychiatric wards and residential facilities within each state. The distance between home and where the patient being cared for can be hours and sometimes states away. 

Depending on the hospital, the caregiver may or may not be fed along with the patient, yet is required to stay there with them. (We've experienced both situations.)

Everyone is required to eat. Caregivers of those experiencing a mental health emergency NEED to eat in order to keep of their strength for however long the crisis continues.

If you're willing, set up a time to deliver meals to the family's home and do so. Ensure that they don't have to be eaten right away and can be stored easily. 

Send along paper plates, bowls, cups, and plastic silverware to ensure no dishes need to be done.

Personally deliver, or call and have meals delivered to the hospital ER or hotel where the caregiver is staying if needed.

Give one or more gift cards to easy access restaurants along the route the family will be traveling during the mental health emergency.

Deliver a basket of nonperishable healthy snack foods that can be thrown in a purse and taken on the go.

Do the grocery shopping for the family purchasing foods that do not require preparation and deliver it to their home at a convenient time.

Child Care/Animal Care

6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency: Child Care/Pet Care

Mental health emergencies are not planned events. Siblings of the patient are often tossed to and frow as caregivers scramble to do what's necessary, or end up witnessing all that occurs at home, in the ER, and other locations.

Many hospitals, psychiatric wards, and other places have rules and regulations about the age and number of visitors.

A mental health emergency is not an event that lasts only minutes or hours. It often can last days and months, which are filled with appointments.

If you are able to offer child care for a family going through a mental health emergency, do so. It can be a life saver, especially as caregivers are trying to balance work and being their for the patient. 

Most often these families will need child care during the day and through the night depending on the situation.

If the family has animals, the same services are extremely helpful.

Yard Maintenance

6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency: Yard Maintenance

One thing, more than any other, that is tossed to the side during a mental health emergency is yard maintenance. There is absolutely no time to do it.

If you are able to mow a lawn, water plants, and/or other gardening tasks, offer to do so. It's one less thing the family needs to worry about. 

To come home to a lawn and garden that looks beautiful and taken care of makes such a difference.

If you live far away and have the means to do so, hire a landscaping company to care for the lawn of the family going through an emergency health crisis through the end of the season.

Mental health emergencies don't just happen during warm weather. Raking leaves, shoveling snow, and sprinkling salt on sidewalks and driveways during icy weather means so much!

A Shoulder to Cry On

6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency: A Should to Cry On

 A mental health emergency feels like a nightmare that never ends. Caregivers are filled with so many different emotions, many contracting each other. 

I have not experienced a single mental health emergency, where I wasn't judged wrongly as a parent by a professional or an emergency responder at one time or another. 

Mental health emergencies are painful experiences that cause so much doubt and hurt.

Caregivers are put in such difficult positions as they try to help the patient and keep all others in the family safe and well taken care of.

The decisions that caregivers face about the future of the patient they love can be gut wrenching.

If you are able to provide a shoulder to cry on without judgement of thoughts, words, and actions, do so. 

Unconditional love can go a long way.

A Gift of Love

6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency: A Gift of Love

During a mental health emergency all focus is on the patient. Most often caregivers are being put through the ringer by professionals and emergency responders. Siblings are being tossed around as caregivers are required to do all that's expected of them.

Everyone is hurting. 

Everyone is suffering. 

Yet, help is only being provided to the one in crisis.

Everyone else's world is being tossed upside down.

Showing love towards those in the family affected by the patient's mental health emergency can go a long way in making sure that family members know they are loved, important, and cared for.

Besides money and food, the expressions of love that helped siblings the most during Sunshine's mental health crises were gifts sent to them during the mental health emergency. 

Through these gifts, they were able to remember that they were important and loved too, when all the focus seemed to be on their sister.

As a parent, I can think of no other experience where I was judged so harshly than during Sunshine's first few mental health emergencies. There has been no other experience so exhausting and stressful. 

The demands on me as Sunshine's caregiver were so high. Self-care was NOT something I was capable of at that time.

I remember vividly when a dear friend showed up at my door with flowers and chocolate just for me as I was preparing to make yet another trip to the pediatric psychiatric ward for a therapy session and visit. 

I cried. 

I felt loved.

I felt like a person again, which hadn't been the case through the duration of the emergency.

Little gifts can make such a difference in the mental health status of siblings and caregivers going through the mental health emergency with the patient.

A family going through a mental health emergency is in desperate need of help and support from those who will not judge. 

If you have not experienced a mental health emergency in your family, you have no idea what a nightmare it can be.

All caregivers want to do is find help for the patient in a system that does not work. Meanwhile their world is turned upside down, which then has a deep impact on others in the household.

The entire experience is gut wrenching and unbelievably stressful. So much damage occurs to the family in the process.

If you are in a place to help, do so. You will be an angel to the family in need. Even if they are unable to thank you at the time, they will never forget your love and generosity.

For those who would like to follow our journey with Sunshine, regarding her mental health and/or receive other helpful tips on how to serve others going through mental health struggles, be sure subscribe to our FREE newsletter.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.

Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis 10 Ways to Help Family with Special Needs Children It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers How Do You Work with a Broken Mental Health System The System Failed Us Horribly She Needs a Forensics Exam To Be a Mother of a Young Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder

6 Ways to Help a Family Going through a Mental Health Emergency

1 comment:

  1. I very much appreciate you sharing ways we can better support each other. It's so true that such times are overwhelming. Have you considered submitting this article to religious or parenting magazines? You have a very unique perspective that is unfortunately becoming more and more common it seems these days--or maybe they're just finally being discussed publicly. Either way, thank you for sharing and please keep doing so!