A mentally ill individual who is experiencing an uncontrollable or sudden change in behavior is called an “episode patient” by the criminal justice system.
While the exact definition is not clear, it typically involves an individual who appears to have lost their mental faculties.
“There’s no single answer to how an episode patient becomes mentally ill,” said Marcia Binder, a psychiatrist at New York University.
The best way to treat an episode is to be a supportive family member and advocate for the individual, she said.
“It’s really important to get out and support your loved one, to be there and make sure they’re not hurting themselves, because it can have devastating effects on the individual,” Binder said.
In some cases, the individual may have suicidal thoughts or attempts.
“If you are having a panic attack, it’s a good idea to go to the hospital, as there’s no other treatment,” said Dr. Lisa DeCourcey, director of the clinical services for the state mental health commission.
“The best way you can be sure that someone who’s having a crisis is having a mental health crisis is to keep an eye on them, monitor their mental health, talk to them,” she said, noting that the best way for a family member to help an episode person is to call 911 and get medical help.
In many cases, a person may have mental health issues or mental illness that are not diagnosed until a person is in a crisis.
“You’re not supposed to make assumptions about someone without being able to check the person,” DeCeguerys said.
While there are no specific mental health guidelines for episode patients, she recommends a mental illness evaluation at the start of the crisis, and to help a person get a mental evaluation in the future.
Binder also said that it’s important to educate family members about how to communicate about mental health and get support for their loved one.
“That can be helpful in helping the individual to understand how to respond to the situation and how to talk about it in a positive way,” she added.
The episode patient needs to be able to be accountable for their actions and their thoughts and feelings, and if they do have a problem, they need to be supported and cared for, she added, adding that the most important thing is to not isolate the individual.
“Make sure they get the help they need, not isolate them,” DeLisi said.
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