Can a Psychiatrist Help in a Medical Emergency?

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Can a Psychiatrist Help in a Medical Emergency?

Mental health problems have escalated in recent years. They become especially pronounced during public calamities like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the need arises for the presence of a support system that can help affected people. There are various models for addressing psychiatric emergencies, which follow the same general rules, particularly when making psychiatric services easily accessible.


Medical emergencies are situations where a person has a high likelihood of dying and need immediate intervention. There’s a need to avail a psychiatric emergency service that imparts treatment and support round the clock in such a situation. It is because there is no particular time for such an emergency to occur. The most common emergencies are suicidal behaviour, depressive episodes, severe self-harm, self-neglect, acutely impaired judgement, intoxication, and psychomotor agitation.


What Psychiatrists Do During an Emergency

Patients in emergency situations lack good judgement. Hence, they are often brought to medical professionals by friends and family members. Astute psychiatrists can easily recognise mental health emergencies during routine outpatient care. Patients can inform about their inability to stay safe, either voluntarily or as elicited by the psychiatrist.


The whole procedure of safely assessing and resolving a psychiatric emergency starts way before the patient enters. An essential consideration is the physical environment and well-trained staff. To determine if a patient is dangerous, the focus is on factors that can increase the risk of unintentional or intentional harm to oneself and those around.


Initial assessment

A psychiatrist has two primary responsibilities: maintenance of the physical well-being of all those in the facility and assessing the patient’s mindset for suitable follow-up treatment. The preservation of staff safety and the protection of other patients depends on the situation. Suppose a patient is severely depressed or quietly delirious. In that case, they can be referred to a separate place or room for the necessary evaluation. Contrary to this, if a person is psychotic and unpredictable, they can be harmful to other individuals around if they are cornered.

The initial evaluation should concentrate on variables that increase the person’s risk of unintentional or intentional danger.


Quick management

If a person is agitated, the psychiatrist finds out how that person should be occupied. The evaluation place is kept clear of things like cords, lamps, or seating units that the patient can use as potential weapons. The importance of creating a safe environment increases if a person can become easily agitated.


If an agitated individual is not responding to any intervention, there’s a need for more evaluation. If a patient tells their suicidal ideation, the psychiatrist questions them to find out the risk involved. Important factors here are the regularity of suicidal thoughts and the capability of the person to redirect them.


Follow-up support

The psychiatrist who is referring a person to an ED should contact it with all the details about the patient’s status and treatment recommendations. Similarly, the treatment provider who is in the ED and is aware of the outpatient care of the person should dispatch a report about the treatment plan of the ED to the referring clinician. All these reports should be completed while keeping the privacy of the patient in mind.


If the person is not referred to an ED, the outpatient psychiatrist is responsible for their care. They should be provided with necessary medications and other interventions required to prevent an emergency relapse.


Emergencies are acute elevations in a person’s risk of danger to either themself or others. In a crisis situation, the treating provider is very much accountable for the assessment of the concerning behaviour.

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