- Always ask the person how you can best assist.
- Ask/Look for:
- An identification bracelet with special health information.
- Emergency contact information to reach the person’s family.
- Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]). Medication.
- Mobility aids (for example, wheelchair, cane, walker or an assistance or service animal).
- Special health instructions (for example, allergies).
- Special communication information (for example, the person might say [s]he is stressed, look confused, withdraw, start rubbing their hands together).
- Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness).
- Try to include the person in conversations with other people; don’t talk about a person in front of that person.
- If the person does not use words to speak, look for gestures or other behaviors that communicate what that person wants to express.
- Don’t assume that people do not understand just because they don’t use words to communicate.
Tips for People with Mental Health Conditions
- You may not be able to tell if a person has a mental health condition until you have begun the evacuation procedure.
- If a person begins to exhibit unusual behavior, ask if they have any mental health issues of which you need to be aware. However, be aware that they may or may not tell you. If you suspect someone has a mental health issue, use the following tips to help you through the situation.
- In an emergency, the person may become confused. Speak slowly and in a normal calm tone.
- If the person becomes agitated, help them find a quiet corner away from the confusion.
- Keep your communication simple, clear and brief.
- If they are confused, don't give multiple commands - ask or state one thing at a time.
- Be empathetic - show that you have heard them and care about what they have told you. Be reassuring.
- If the person is delusional, don't argue with them or try to "talk them out of it". Just let them know you are there to help them.
- Ask if there is any medication they should take with them.
- Try to avoid interrupting a person who might be disoriented or rambling - just let them know that you have to move quickly.
- Don't talk down to them, yell or shout.
- Have a forward leaning body position - this shows interest and concern.
- Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, http://ok.gov/odmhsas
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org