Trying to get a psychiatric evaluation can be an overwhelming process. But with your support, your loved one can get started on the road to treatment.

Roughly 20% of adults in the United States live with a mental health condition, so there’s a good chance that you, a loved one, or someone you know is one of those affected. Mental health conditions can have a profound effect not only on someone’s day-to-day life but also on their relationships with their loved ones.

If you’ve noticed that someone you care about is experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, you may be curious about how to help get them evaluated and treated. We’ll share what you need to know about how to help your loved one get a psychiatric evaluation, as well as cover some tips on how to best support them through their treatment.

A note about consent

If your loved one has a mental health condition, it’s natural to be concerned for their well-being and want them to get help. But it’s important to understand that, with the exception of emergency situations, you cannot legally force someone to get help. This is because of a person’s autonomy.

Autonomy is the right that each of us has to make informed decisions about our own medical care without influence or coercion from others, including family and healthcare professionals.

Even if your loved one is experiencing symptoms that would benefit from a psychiatric evaluation, it’s ultimately their choice and their right to seek out treatment.

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A psychiatric evaluation is an assessment performed by a trained mental health professional that can help diagnose mental health conditions. Psychiatric evaluations are a beneficial tool for people with mental health conditions because they offer a diagnosis, which opens up the opportunity for treatment.

Millions of people every year make the choice to seek mental health treatment ― not because they’re forced to, but because they want to. And even though you may believe that your loved one should get a psych evaluation, it’s important to remember that they have a right to make their own medical decisions.

So what can you do if a loved one or family member is going through a mental health crisis?

  • Offer your support: One of the most important things you can do for someone living with a mental health condition is to offer support. Be encouraging toward them, offer to listen to what they’re going through, and withhold any judgment you may have about how your loved one is approaching their treatment.
  • Ask them what they want: Consider that your loved one, as much as anyone else, has autonomy over their own mental health. Even if you feel that they would benefit from an evaluation, it’s ultimately their choice. However, asking them how they feel and what they want may help them feel more confident about getting help.
  • Help them do research: When you’re living with a mental health condition, it can be hard to take those initial steps to get better. If your loved one has decided to get an evaluation, help them research where and how they can do so. Even researching before they ask can be helpful, as long as there are no expectations attached.
  • Speak with their doctor: If you’re concerned about your loved one’s mental health, it can sometimes be helpful to have an honest conversation with their doctor or therapist. But just remember, their privacy is also important too, so while you can report your experience of their symptoms, never ask for personal details from someone else’s therapist.

Even with the right support, your loved one still might not reach out for help, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed them, and it doesn’t mean that you have to stop supporting them.

Instead, try to accept that they have a right to make their own decisions about their care and that the best thing you can do is try to understand and support those decisions.

How to get a psych eval for a child

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health conditions affect tens of millions of children in the United States. And for conditions like depression and anxiety, rates continue to increase in both children and adolescents every year.

If your child has been showing signs of emotional or behavioral problems, consider reaching out to a pediatric mental health professional. Not only are they trained to recognize when a child might need help, but they can also offer a psychiatric evaluation to diagnose any mental health conditions so that your child can get the treatment they need.

If you’ve noticed that your loved one is experiencing signs of a mental health crisis, this may warrant emergency psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Sometimes, a person may seek out emergency treatment voluntarily. Other times, they may not be able to.

In either case, here are the most common situations that require emergency services:

  • Symptoms of psychosis: When someone is experiencing psychosis, they can experience reality differently from other people. They may experience signs and symptoms like increased anxiety and depression, social withdrawal, confusion, hallucinations, and delusions, among others.
  • Risk of harming oneself or others: When someone becomes a risk to themselves, you may notice signs like talking about suicide, writing suicide notes, giving away possessions, and taking steps to end their own life. Some people may also become violent toward others and threaten or create plans to harm other people.

Signs and symptoms like those described above require immediate medical attention, so it’s important to get your loved one to the nearest psychiatric hospital for help ― if it’s safe to do so.

If a person is an immediate danger to themselves or others and you can’t safely get them to the hospital, you can call a mobile crisis unit or 911 and ask for assistance instead.

Learn more about suicide prevention here.

You’re not alone

If you or someone close to you is experiencing suicidal ideation, help is available to you 24/7. If you’re in the United States, you can call 988 to reach the Mental Health Crisis Line or chat with them online from anywhere. Someone is always there to listen and help you get the resources you need.

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It can be difficult to see your loved one experience mental health symptoms without seeking out treatment, but there are so many reasons why someone might be hesitant about getting help. Social stigma, personal beliefs, past experience, fear of the unknown, and even financial barriers can all prevent someone from getting the help they need.

But even though you can’t force someone to get help, you can support them. Understand why they may not want to get help and let them know that you’re there to support them, in whatever capacity you’re able to be. Offer to lend an ear, explore treatment options with them, or simply spend time enjoying shared hobbies.

People experiencing a mental health crisis may also find it difficult to fulfill the multitude of day-to-day tasks on their list. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is drop by with a hot meal or offer to help with the laundry.

Understand that mental health treatment can be a long road, and progress isn’t always linear. But with persistence and support, life can ― and does ― get better.

Living with a mental health condition is not always easy, and there are days when it can be difficult for everyone involved. But in the same way that it’s your loved one’s responsibility to manage their mental health, it’s also your responsibility to nurture your own mental health, too ― especially if you’re their caregiver.

If you’ve started to notice that your loved one’s mental health is affecting your own mental health, it’s okay to take a step back and get support. Sometimes that support might look like carving time out of your day for healthy activities, like exercising, cooking a nutritious meal, and practicing relaxation. Other times, it may look like meeting with your own therapist or support system.

When you’re the parent, partner, or relative of someone who has a condition that affects their mental health, it can be difficult ― and sometimes even scary ― to watch as they navigate their treatment.

However, the best thing you can do for someone who is living with a mental health condition is to support them in whatever way you’re able to. Whether that’s offering a safe space for them to vent or helping them find a professional who can perform a psychiatric evaluation, with your support and the right treatment, your loved one can better learn how to manage their mental health.