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Seeking Treatment

The most expensive care is not necessarily the best.  Private care is not necessarily better than the care Offered though you local community mental health service program.  In fact, care through the public sector may be necessary before certain community services are accessible.

Suggestions for seeking treatment:

Most important, understand it is neither your fault nor the fault of the person in crisis.

Be informed as to what resources are available: Contact you local community mental health services program or the local NAMI affiliate for referral information.

Evaluate the situation:  If you feel there is danger to any person, call the emergency number (9-1-1) or law enforcement officer.  If a crisis occurs but there appears to be no immediate risk, take your relative to a psychiatric emergency service or call the crisis intervention officer, if available.

If the need is not urgent; take time to talk with your relative.  Do not make a diagnosis but stress that you care and are concerned and offer your help.  Ask them how they feel and how they feel about talking with a doctor or therapist.  Be honest and direct.  Use terms that you believe are most acceptable to them (e.g., unhappy, nervous, mixed up, worried).  Respect their right to choose.  Understand that they may need to deny what is happening at first, but by discussing it with them you have “opened the door,” and they may later be ready to talk and/or seek help.

Understand their fears:  Be patient and supportive.  Accept that they may be more willing to talk with a trusted friend, doctor, clergy, or another family member.

Always be honest:  It is very important that trust exists if you are able to help your friend or relative.  It will not help them to argue or deny that what they are seeing, hearing and feeling is real.  Assure them that you love them and understand that what they are experiences is real to them and that youwant to help.  Do not hideyour concern.  Do not whisper around them.  Do not make threats if you do not plan to follow through.

Share your concerns:  You should always share your concerns with family members and try to get their cooperation.  However, if their condition deteriorates, if you have serious concerns about their well being, and you believe a crisis is imminent, you may need to pursue an involuntary order for treatment, also known in Florida as The Baker Act. 


Keep in mind as you read this section that new and better medications are being tested and released every day.  It is in both families’ and consumers’ best interest to keep up to date in this area.  Read, explore, listen, and discuss with the appropriate physician.  One of the best sources of information on medications, as well as other areas of treatment, is the national NAMI website, .

Psychotropic medications are often very useful in helping the person with mental illness to think more clearly and to gain control of his or her own thoughts, actions, and emotions.  Medications can also dramatically decrease the need for hospitalization and increase the person’s ability to benefit from rehabilitation programs and to function independently.  Any licensed physician, not just a psychiatrist, may prescribe medications.  A psychiatrist, however, is more knowledgeable about these medications and should supervise ongoing drug therapy.

It is important to know the names of the prescription medications, their dosage, therapeutic benefits, and any side effects observed, and risks or precautions.  Medications produce both beneficial effects and side effects.  People are highly variable in regard to how much benefit they will get from a drug and the type and severity of the side effects they will experience.  While side effects may be evident soon after starting to take the medication, the desired effect may not be seen for several weeks, and it may take months of continuous use before the maximum benefit is evident.

Some side effects, especially those that appear early, are temporary and may go away or become less severe after a few weeks.

Resistance to taking prescribed medications is often due to unpleasant side effects.  It is important that the prescribing physician discusses this with the patient and seeks the most effective and acceptable plan for treatment.  The consumer will be given and explanation and written summary of the most common side effects of medications which have been prescribed.

There are four main groups of drugs used to treat the symptoms of mental illness: anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs.

Anti-psychotics:  These medications are for treatment of the symptoms of psychosis, which include unusual or bizarre behavior, hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and disturbed thought processes.  They are sometimes used to calm the severely hyperactive behavior seen in the manic phase of bipolar disorder.  They can help prevent relapse and/or hospitalization.  Some of the more common anti-psychotic drugs:      

      Abilify (aripiprazole)

      Clozaril (clozapine)

      Geodon (ziprasidone)

      Haldol (haloperidol)

      Loxitane (loxipane)

      Mellaril (thioridazine)

      Moban (molindone)

      Navane (thiothixene)

      Prolixin (fluphenazine)

      Risperdal (risperidone)

      Serentil (mesoridazine)

      Seroquel (quetiapine)

      Stelazine (trifluoperazine)

      Thorazine (chlorpromazine)

      Trilafon (perphenazine)

      Zyprexa (olanzapine)

Some significant side effects of this group of drugs are:


       Allergic Reactions

·         Autonomic Reactions (dizziness, dry mouth, blurred vision and difficulty in elimination processes)

·         Drowsiness Extra-pyramidal Reactions (movement problems)

·         Tardive Dyskinesia (involuntary movements)


Mood Stabilizers: There are several medications used to reduce wide mood swings of persons, especially with bipolar illness.  Some of these medications require monitoring, so that symptoms can be controlled with the fewest side effects.

Antidepressants: This group of medications is used to treat severe depression and to mange agitated or hostile behavior related to depression.

Anti-Anxiety Agents: A number of medications can be used to reduce anxiety, relax muscles, and produce sedation.  They should generally be used only for short periods of time.  Some are addictive and may produce severe reactions if used with alcohol.


Optimal use of medications for the treatment of severe mental illnesses restores a quality of life to the individuals affected, as those medications are used in combination with support and behavior modification therapies.

The advice of a physician, particularly a psychiatrist, is advised so that optimal dosage can be achieved as quickly as possible as some of these medications may be addictive if used inappropriately.  Please note that oral medications may produce serious reactions if used with alcohol.

For a wealth of information on medications used to treat mental disorders, including a comprehensive list of medications, go to the National Institute of Mental Health website on medications,

Drug Patient Assistance Program

Pharmaceutical companies may offer free medications for needy patients.  The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) will often provide free medications to physicians whose patients might not otherwise have access to the needed drug.  PhRMA may be reached through its website,

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