Jan McDaniel recently wrote about having a mental health crisis plan and even compared it to the steps you would take if you had a medical condition like diabetes.
It is true. Think about people you know, maybe even people you have some responsibility for. When I was much younger, I had a roommate who was diabetic. All of us in the house that we shared knew what it might look like and what to do if he had an insulin reaction, to get him something to eat, etc. No one really gave it a second thought.
More recently, I have a niece who has some history of seizures. In order for her to go places with us or spend the night with us, we need to be aware of what to do if she has a seizure, what medication she needs to take, etc. Again, this is all part of living with a health condition, sharing the condition and the steps to take with the people closest to you so they can assist you, if needed.
Or, let’s move it away from medical conditions, how many times have you had a fire drill? If you’re in the office and a fire breaks out, I bet there’s a plan to get everyone out of the building, and I bet you’ve practiced it. In Louisiana we also have hurricane evacuation plans, plans for what to do if our neighborhood floods, etc. In other areas of the country it’s earthquake, wildfire, tornado, etc. Each threat has a plan.
Yet, when it comes to our mental health conditions, we rarely ever have those same conversations about our plans. We should. The people closest to us, the ones we spend a lot of time with, the ones in a position to actually notice changes in our behavior, should not be left to wonder what to do. We should have that discussion. If you’re prone to have panic attacks, the people you spend a lot of time with should know what you need to do and be able to help you do it. If you are in a situation where the threat of suicidal thoughts is a real possibility you should have a crisis line like the National Suicide Prevention hotline (1-800-277-8255) programmed into your phone, and people you know should know that, and be able to get to it as well. You should have a conversation with them about what behavior changes should concern them, and who to call to get help.
There is a reason we plan for disasters and health emergencies. Following the plan saves lives. Mental health conditions are killing thousands of people around the world, including people we know and love. Those lives are worth saving, and having a plan can do that.
What’s in your plan? More importantly, who else knows the plan?