What to Do After the Arrest of a Mentally Ill Family Member
The reality of caring for a mentally ill loved one can be daunting. It comes with uncertainty and anxiety. It comes with doctors’ visits and hours of behavioral therapy. It comes with complexity and gray areas.
After you find out your loved one has been arrested, you need to prepare to help him or her through the trying process. Below we provide some guidelines for how you should respond after the arrest of a mentally ill family member.
Offer Your Support
When your loved one contacts you from a law enforcement facility, you may feel anxious. But it’s important to remember how much your anxiety can affect his or her mood and behavior. For the process to work smoothly, your family member must remain as calm as possible.
Do the following to provide your support to your loved one:
- Assure him or her that you will offer all the support you can. Try to offer specific actions you intend to take—concrete ideas are more calming than ambiguities.
- Encourage him or her to discuss diagnosis, physical condition, mental condition, and medications with mental health staff. Remind him or her to answer honestly if officials conduct a mental health evaluation.
- Remind him or her to ask for legal representation when speaking to police officers or detectives
Contact the Jail
If you know where your family member is, contact the officials at the facilities. You can ask how long they expect to hold your loved one and if they have arranged a psychiatric evaluation. Prepare to provide the following information about your loved one’s condition:
- Any history of outward violence or suicide attempts
- Medications, including dosage and administration time information
- Psychiatrist and medical doctor’s contact information
- Symptoms and medication side effects suffered
Also include any information about other medical conditions and medications affecting your loved one.
If you aren’t sure which jail your family member is in, an inmate search can help. On our resources page, we’ve included links to the Clark County, City of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and City of Henderson inmate search pages.
Some facilities allow you to search by case name or inmate number. If you don’t have this information, you can search your relative’s surname.
If your loved one failed to provide a name, he or she will appear in the system as John or Jane Doe until officials have identified him or her via fingerprint analysis. This happens when an arrestee is unwilling or unable to provide his or her name to the arresting or processing officer. In this case, if you have legal identification for your family member on hand, you can contact the jail to expedite the identification process.
Contact Your Loved One’s Support Network
As much as you care about your loved one, you can’t get them out of trouble on your own. Get a hold of your loved one’s regular support network. This list may include the following individuals:
- Case manager
- Primary care physician
Supply these parties with as much pertinent information as you can.
You may also choose to reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter in your area. The members of your local chapter may offer advice on finding an attorney, working through the legal process, and supporting your loved one.
Research Court Options in Your Area
Specialized courts hear cases complex litigation, drug, and mental health cases. In Clark County, the Eighth Judicial Court has a mental health court available to process cases against mentally ill offenders. If officials charged your loved one with a nonviolent crime, he or she may be eligible for a hearing before this court or another mental health court.
This court seats an advisory committee of judges, mental health professionals, social service providers, and community leaders. This committee provides support and assistance to improve court proceedings to the benefit of defendants.
Seek Legal Representation
Experts recommend seeking legal recommendation. An attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process, ensuring it processes as quickly as possible. An attorney may also help you get your loved one the medication, facility support, and court processing he or she needs.
Consult with a Bail Bondsman
Mental illness can affect the likelihood that a judge will grant your loved one bail. In some cases, mental illness represents an extenuating circumstance that may encourage a judge to decrease the bail amount.
In others, mental illness may discourage a judge from setting bail. This occurs when your loved one appears to pose more of a flight risk due to his or her diagnosis. For example, if your family member doesn’t have a steady job and experiences psychotic breaks a judge may only grant bail if he or she is released into your custody.
As you may decisions about bail and representation, consult with a reputable attorney and bondsman. Their experience works to you and your family member’s benefit.