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Medical News & Perspectives
August 14, 2002

Psychiatric Emergencies Call for Comprehensive Assessment and Treatment

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JAMA. 2002;288(6):686-687. doi:10.1001/jama.288.6.686-JMN0814-2-1

Philadelphia—Psychiatric emergencies often erupt suddenly. A person may curse or hit others, throw objects, or brandish a weapon. The individual may announce plans to commit suicide or attempt to do so. Someone may neglect self-care and stop eating, exhibit confusion, and perhaps wander into traffic, or go outside unclothed. Those at the scene—family, friends, coworkers, perhaps strangers—can't handle the situation. They call police or an ambulance.

Time of day is a factor, too. Psychiatric emergencies peak between 6 PM and 10 PM. With family members home together, long-standing conflicts may explode. Substance use, which rises in the evening, aggravates disruptive behavior. Family physicians, pastoral counselors, and other resources may be hard to reach.

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