Calling 911 may be necessary. But unlike burning houses and heart attacks, when dealing with human behavior, thoughts, and feelings it can seem a bit tricky. Knowing what is critical and what is not, who is involved, what the situation is, and the like can help make the contacts more clear. In some cases, making a call is not an option – it could even be the law. Here are several scenarios that can help.
Kurt LaRose MSW LCSW LICSW
If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of another person you are urged to immediately contact an emergency services department or call 911. You can also drive to the nearest emergency room hospital. Waiting to talk with a mental health professional in the midst of having thoughts about killing yourself or that of hurting others is not really worth the delay, particularly if you are trying to reach someone in after hours. After hours options are available for many mental health professionals, particularly those who use online digital practice options, however safety changes literally just about everything that needs to happen in mental health delivery.
Why? Crisis and life and death are not best addressed with traditional time delayed responses. If you are unsafe, in any manner of ways, suicide, homicide, questioning reality or if you are being physically harmed, getting help now is what is most important.
If you think that your crisis is significant, however you also think that contacting emergency services may be too much as long as you (or others) are safe and not in harms way or in imminent danger then it is okay to look at other ways to stay safe besides the ER or 911. Alternatives may make sense, but again that is under your belief that you can assure your own and/or others’ safety.
In abusive scenarios though, where vulnerable populations, children, elderly and even domestic violence may mean involving others to help. This “involving others to help” does not necessarily mean that 911/ER are needed however some kind of reporting still is; and in abuse cases involving others may be required.
Whether you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts/feelings/actions, homicidal ones, or if you are being harmed or know of others who are here are ways to proceed and contact information. PLEASE READ EACH SECTION THOROUGHLY BEFORE DECIDING WHO TO CONTACT; IN ONE SCENARIO BELOW YOU ARE CAUTIONED ABOUT EVEN CLICKING ON A WEB LINK.
– IMMEDIATE QUESTIONS ABOUT SAFETY and CONFIDENTIALITY
If you have other questions that are about safety concerns, you may text me directly or “send a message” here on this page; be aware that texting and the “send a message” are not confidential or secure and that others may be able to (and in fact cellular carrier personnel can) read your messages and my replies (third parties can read the “send a message” information too).
Confidentiality concerns are a consideration as well. In safety confidentiality is less of a concern, as matters of safety take a greater priority. Please know too if you do text, you will need to be available when you get a reply (which can be as fast as immediate to as long as many hours) so that I can ensure that you are alive and well. If you are not available and you send a safety related text, it may mean that I will have to contact authorities to locate your number so that they can locate you. If you are this unsafe or you are unsure about “if” – then you really would benefit to call 911 or go to the ER to be assessed.
SUICIDE OR HOMICIDE
Call someone, be around someone with whom you feel safe and call 24 hour hotlines, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. The NSPL also offers 24/7 chat options too.:
- 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
Domestic violence is dangerous and you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The NDVH also offers 24/7 chat. The NDHV advises visitors to their site that the contact of the website is something which can be tracked and monitored (a behavior that batterers would be expected to engage in). You can avoid this “tracking” concern by electing a safe place to go, NOT visiting their website, and then during a safe time call the 800 number listed. Know that if you call 911 you should do so without telling or letting the batterer know this is taking place, as the risk of harm to you may go up if he (and all batterers are not male) is aware of the call. Do so without them knowing that the call is being made, and if possible get away from the batterer when deciding to call for help (if this it is safe to do so and it is possible).
LGBTQ DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
LBTQ facing domestic violence may contact the NDVH number as well. The LGBTQ population is distinguished here for the purposes of highlighting that NDVH has LGBTQ friendly information posted on their website. However the hetero-normative approaches could impact the referrals and suggestions, as it does in mental health care.
LGBTQ persons who prefer programs that are fully catering and fully knowledgeable in a comprehensive network of allies and advocates, including Domestic Violence, 24 hour contacts can be made to the Trevor Project:
The Trevor Project offers 24/7 phone support, chat and even a texting option:
- Text START to 678678 to chat.
NOTE ABOUT THOSE CONSIDERING COUPLES COUNSELING. If you are in a relationship that is having serious difficulties where violence is a factor and are considering couples counseling you may want to begin alone and in private, first, looking at a couples option later. Couples counseling when violence is present can make things more violent. There are programs that will work with violent couples but this usually is after safety is assured and maintained.
ABUSE AND VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
WORRIES ABOUT REPORTING ARE COMMON. So, here it may help to look at your concerns, your fears and maybe even your stereotypes when sorting out what to do when abuse is seen, suspected and/or known. The following is a way of thinking about what you’re doing, and why, and then there are phone numbers and websites for who you might call.
Breaking down the barriers to resolving abuse is first to be clear that political correctness and biases about others is not the concern – but know that what is the priority is safety. If you can, set aside those concerns about what may or may not happen in abusive scenarios (particularly with children, vulnerable populations and the elderly), and move to the thought that your actions about getting help and helping to create safety is the primary goal.
If you say something in talking with others or in reporting abuse and it is seen as presumptive or stereotypical the person you are speaking to may let you know. If you are unsure, you can make anonymous phone calls and let experts of various forms make the decision for you such that you can involve help and be named (know that in some cases reports are quoted exactly so identifying yourself indirectly can unknowingly occur too – like “my brothers neighbor said…” and then when that is read to the family they’ll be able to figure out your report). Again, this is really not the primary concern (unless you believe you will be harmed by making a report) as the concern is about getting children and others some help.
In some cases the law requires you to report abuse and abusive episodes (abuse and abusive or not the same; abuse is a repetitive pattern where intent is historically evident or apparent and abusive is more about an incident where harm occurred outside of a pattern, it is unusual and possibly was not intentional). Either way abusive events and abuse are report-able by law with certain populations.
Child abuse must be reported by law whether you or I or a child or a parent wants it to be or not. Children are considered vulnerable in the sense that they do not have power or control over their situation. Children cannot elect to remove themselves, say as many adults might have the freedom to do (I say “many adults” as adult victims in battering and human trafficking scenarios are limited due to the terrorist-like violence they suffer). Child abuse is a factor when illegal drugs are used in the child’s presence (yes, this is defined as child abuse, given the child cannot choose to be around the drugs or not), intentional exposure to sexual behaviors, neglecting medical care and there are abuse standards evident in neglecting academic care too. Domestic violence in the home with children present is also considered child abuse.
If you are unsure if you or a child is being abused (or if what you are concerned about may be abuse) it is best to contact child welfare professionals who can answer your question in this regard. Many programs exist to help children and many are progressively emerging throughout the US in “shared family care,” kinship networks and actions by the court mandating parental treatment and family preservation. The point is, child abuse has to be reported, period and in spite of the judgement that children services with either do nothing or they will remove the child from the home (a stereotype in most cases) there are many interventions to support children and families. You can contact the National Child Abuse Hotline or call:
- 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)
STATE by STATE CONTACT INFORMATION. Each state and jurisdiction in the US also has child abuse reporting call centers. For a list of the reporting bureaus by state go to the Child Information Gateway website and then click their link for the state by state list and toll free numbers (and with each State’s website listed).
The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging covers a wealth of information regarding various types of elder abuse, using scenarios and vignettes that are easy to digest. Assuming that because someone is older and that they cannot care for themselves could be a form of ageism. However, being no-stereotypical as a way to NOT talk about abuse would be a mistake.
The way to address concerns with elderly populations is the same as all types of safety – YOU TALK ABOUT IT. There is nothing about the “TalkifUwant” website that if “if you want” when it comes to safety. Ask questions, let the person know you are talking to you do not want to jump to conclusions, that you want to check on something and you want to talk openly about your concerns. That is that starting point. The National Center on Elder Abuse
To find your state elder care agency, who can direct you in abuse concerns, reporting, caregiver and family support as well assistance in a myriad of other services enter your zip code here and the 800 number and state related agency site will appear.
A NOTE ABOUT WEBSITE LINKS
If you find a link above that is no longer working there are two reasons, primarily: 1) the site was changed in some way (new domain hosting, new security features, new publishing platforms, etc) and 2) the organization did not take the time to set up redirect links to the new page. If this happens you can do a Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu (multinational search engine) search and see what comes up – or you can contact me and I’ll find the updated link for you.
The TalkifUwant links should be working regardless, however as the articles page makes clear, updates and lost data are being avoided as much as humanly possible!
If you’re certain that you and others are safe, but you are in serious distress of some kind, feel free to contact us for assistance.
Rev 6/10/19 (Rev. notes: page restored Brighter Vision 6.10.19)