Working with the System
TIPS ON GETTING THE HELP YOU NEED
Individuals living with a mental illness, their family members and friends need to know how to be effective in getting help when someone is seriously mentally ill. The following suggestions will help:
Keep your records updated and current. List names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of crisis events, admissions and discharge dates of hospitalization. Make notes of conversations and conferences. Make copies of everything that is mailed. Keep all notices and letters and keep all of these items in an easily accessible file folder.
If acting on behalf of an individual with a mental illness, keep that person informed about everything you plan to do and obtain approval where appropriate.
Be patient, polite, and keep conversations to the point.
Do not accept any attempts to be intimidated and do not intimidate the professionals and caregivers.
Do not accept vague answers or statements that seem confusing. For example, if a clinician should say “We are observing your daughter carefully,” realize that this statement provides no information of substance. Write letters of appreciation when warranted.
Write letters of constructive criticism only when necessary. Address communications to the decision maker in an organization and consider sending copies to your legislature or other State official.
Learn communication techniques in getting information. For example, instead of saying “Who should I call now?” say “If this was your son, what would you do next?” General questions can always be asked, such as “What is the average length of stay for this type of condition?” or “How have you helped others in this type of situation?” The vast majority of professionals do want to help, but are often limited on being able to specifically give detailed advice.
Do not be afraid or ashamed to acknowledge that you are the relative of a person who is mentally ill.
Finally, be assertive! You are paying, either directly or with your taxes for mental health services. You are entitled to information, respect and courtesy are not asking for favors. You are simply helping to get the job done.