Emergency rooms and crisis centers are hectic and pressured places almost by definition. Decisions need to be made fast, and definitively. Perhaps the single-biggest decision that gets answered is whether the person being evaluated needs to be admitted to an inpatient facility or could be safely treated in a less-restrictive setting, such as a partial hospital program (PHP), intensive outpatient program (IOP), or by her own clinician in a regular outpatient or clinic setting.
This is where family and friends can make all the difference. Even though professionals in an emergency room may not be able to give you information about your family member or loved one (due to patient confidentiality and more stringent rules through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)), they can most certainly take in any information you have to give them. It is important that you do not hold back. If someone has been talking about hurting himself or someone else, you need to let the psychiatrist, social worker, or crisis clinician know exactly what has been said and done. Likewise, if he’s been refusing all food and lying in bed for days, this needs to be communicated.
Where someone is acutely psychotic, manic and/or depressed, you, as a family member or friend, might be able to supply critical information about past treatments, medications the person is currently taking, and whether or not he has been using alcohol or other drugs. It’s this vital information that can make the difference between someone getting admitted to the hospital or not. If you must leave the emergency room or crisis center, be sure to give your phone numbers to the staff who are working with your family member or friend. By communicating critical information to treators you are helping your loved one, not betraying him.