What If I'm Arrested?

Reviewed Aug 8, 2016

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Summary

  • Talk to family members.
  • If a patient ID card is available, carry one.
  • Carry the NAMI helpline number.

It’s sad but true: People with serious mental illness have a high chance of being arrested. You don’t have to commit a serious crime. The offense can be something like sleeping at a train station. Or a family member might call the police when your symptoms get out of control.

Daniel Yohanna, MD, a Psychiatrist with the University of Chicago Medical Center, says about one in five people behind bars are severely mentally ill. They should not be there, but they can’t get the right treatment. Instead, they get into trouble with the law.

So what do you do if you’re arrested?

First of all, remember that you have rights. It doesn’t matter if you have a mental illness. Like everyone else, you have the same right to remain silent and the right to legal help.

Second, you should ask for the “crisis intervention team (CIT).” Or tell the police that you need a CIT officer. Yohanna says many police departments train officers in ways to deal with mentally ill people under arrest. So don’t panic. Ask for help instead.

It helps to be prepared, of course. Here are some steps you can take to be ready if you get in trouble:

Talk to family members. The people who are close to you should know how to help you in case of arrest. Talk with them about what they can do if you are arrested. Make sure you are able to call them at any time. Also, give them phone numbers of your doctor, lawyer, or a local mental health center. They could call these if you are unable to.

If a patient ID card is available, carry one. Find out from your doctor if you can have a card that identifies you as a patient. This will help the police understand your illness.

Carry the NAMI number. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has a national helpline at 800-950-6264 (800-950-NAMI). It also has local programs. Write down the helpline number and carry it. Go to the NAMI website at www.nami.org to learn about programs in your area.

Learn how to keep your benefits. If you have to spend time in jail, you need to know how to keep your benefits from programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has a booklet on this topic. For a PDF, go to
www.bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=u-NP2VU8WzQ%3d&tabid=104.

By Tom Gray
Source: Daniel Yohanna MD, Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago Medical Center; National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org); Center for Mental Health Services National GAINS Center; Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Summary

  • Talk to family members.
  • If a patient ID card is available, carry one.
  • Carry the NAMI helpline number.

It’s sad but true: People with serious mental illness have a high chance of being arrested. You don’t have to commit a serious crime. The offense can be something like sleeping at a train station. Or a family member might call the police when your symptoms get out of control.

Daniel Yohanna, MD, a Psychiatrist with the University of Chicago Medical Center, says about one in five people behind bars are severely mentally ill. They should not be there, but they can’t get the right treatment. Instead, they get into trouble with the law.

So what do you do if you’re arrested?

First of all, remember that you have rights. It doesn’t matter if you have a mental illness. Like everyone else, you have the same right to remain silent and the right to legal help.

Second, you should ask for the “crisis intervention team (CIT).” Or tell the police that you need a CIT officer. Yohanna says many police departments train officers in ways to deal with mentally ill people under arrest. So don’t panic. Ask for help instead.

It helps to be prepared, of course. Here are some steps you can take to be ready if you get in trouble:

Talk to family members. The people who are close to you should know how to help you in case of arrest. Talk with them about what they can do if you are arrested. Make sure you are able to call them at any time. Also, give them phone numbers of your doctor, lawyer, or a local mental health center. They could call these if you are unable to.

If a patient ID card is available, carry one. Find out from your doctor if you can have a card that identifies you as a patient. This will help the police understand your illness.

Carry the NAMI number. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has a national helpline at 800-950-6264 (800-950-NAMI). It also has local programs. Write down the helpline number and carry it. Go to the NAMI website at www.nami.org to learn about programs in your area.

Learn how to keep your benefits. If you have to spend time in jail, you need to know how to keep your benefits from programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has a booklet on this topic. For a PDF, go to
www.bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=u-NP2VU8WzQ%3d&tabid=104.

By Tom Gray
Source: Daniel Yohanna MD, Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago Medical Center; National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org); Center for Mental Health Services National GAINS Center; Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Summary

  • Talk to family members.
  • If a patient ID card is available, carry one.
  • Carry the NAMI helpline number.

It’s sad but true: People with serious mental illness have a high chance of being arrested. You don’t have to commit a serious crime. The offense can be something like sleeping at a train station. Or a family member might call the police when your symptoms get out of control.

Daniel Yohanna, MD, a Psychiatrist with the University of Chicago Medical Center, says about one in five people behind bars are severely mentally ill. They should not be there, but they can’t get the right treatment. Instead, they get into trouble with the law.

So what do you do if you’re arrested?

First of all, remember that you have rights. It doesn’t matter if you have a mental illness. Like everyone else, you have the same right to remain silent and the right to legal help.

Second, you should ask for the “crisis intervention team (CIT).” Or tell the police that you need a CIT officer. Yohanna says many police departments train officers in ways to deal with mentally ill people under arrest. So don’t panic. Ask for help instead.

It helps to be prepared, of course. Here are some steps you can take to be ready if you get in trouble:

Talk to family members. The people who are close to you should know how to help you in case of arrest. Talk with them about what they can do if you are arrested. Make sure you are able to call them at any time. Also, give them phone numbers of your doctor, lawyer, or a local mental health center. They could call these if you are unable to.

If a patient ID card is available, carry one. Find out from your doctor if you can have a card that identifies you as a patient. This will help the police understand your illness.

Carry the NAMI number. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has a national helpline at 800-950-6264 (800-950-NAMI). It also has local programs. Write down the helpline number and carry it. Go to the NAMI website at www.nami.org to learn about programs in your area.

Learn how to keep your benefits. If you have to spend time in jail, you need to know how to keep your benefits from programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has a booklet on this topic. For a PDF, go to
www.bazelon.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=u-NP2VU8WzQ%3d&tabid=104.

By Tom Gray
Source: Daniel Yohanna MD, Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago Medical Center; National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org); Center for Mental Health Services National GAINS Center; Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

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