I would like to preface this article with the statement that I support this topic and think we need to discuss this more often. This article was written by our friends Alicia and Mike at Pamela Farms, and I am sure it touches home for a lot of folks. So let’s talk about this more and see what we can do to take care of those when needed.
It is no secret that within the world in which we live, mental health issues from mild to severe and everything in between are not uncommon. Chances are very high that if you or a member of your immediate family are not suffering from some form of mental illness, there is at least someone in your close circle of friends and/or extended family who is. To say that everyone knows someone currently affected by mental illness is probably pretty darn accurate.
Unfortunately, I personally do not feel this topic has been explored and discussed near enough within the various preparedness communities. Sure, it gets mentioned from time to time, but it is almost as if it is a giant pink elephant in the room that we all see, but are either too afraid or too focused on all of the other many facets of prepping, to admit it really is there. Usually, discussions on the topic are focused on morale, which is absolutely a very important aspect that will certainly help those without any current issues from developing them. There are also a fair amount of articles and actual case studies that discuss how any type of disaster itself can onset a multitude of disorders, hence the need for effective ways to keep morale high. Those, however, are not what I am referring to in this article. What I am referring to is the high likelihood that someone in your post SHTF group will already be suffering from some form of mental illness (diagnosed or not) before the collapse or disaster ever happened.
For those who are diagnosed and require medication, what happens when the medication runs out? Stockpiling regular prescription medication is difficult (as has often been discussed when dealing with typical medical issues post SHTF). Psychiatric medications on the other hand are almost impossible. It practically takes an act of Congress to get an early refill in cases of medication being lost. Advance fills (60 or 90 days ahead for example) are often not allowed, due to suicidal concerns, be it intentional or accidental.
For those who are not diagnosed, what happens when the stress of the situation overcomes their ability to function on a rational level (likely much quicker than the same stress would start to affect someone not currently suffering with mental health issues). While it is certainly more likely, the “risk” of being without proper medication (or treatment) is more dangerous for the mental patient themselves, we must admit there is a significant amount of additional risk that is then imposed on the safety of the entire group.
The world has collapsed around you. You find yourself faced with the mental health problems of a loved one (or maybe yourself). There is no hope of getting medication for treating these problems or your supply is running short. What is the next step in your future?
The first step is in understanding the mental health problem itself. Do not wait for after the collapse, when information will be limited, to try and look for information that may no longer be available to you. Right now is the time to be researching problems, their causes, and their treatments in the face of no medication, treatment or hospitalization. Identify those in your group now who suffer with mental illness and fully research their condition(s). As part of your informational supplies/manuals, have a well-respected and easy to understand reference on hand that will not only help the group as a whole understand and cope, but the patient as well.
I will use bipolar disorder as one example in this post since I (personally) know several people who suffer from this condition. In the case of someone with bipolar disorder, a good reference would be The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, Second Edition: What You and Your Family Need to Know. In dealing with this person on a day-to-day basis, you can expect them to have many extreme ups and downs. Some days they will be happy and seemingly very mentally stable. Then on other days, they will be blowing their fuse, hollering at everyone, making outrageous demands, and so on (this is called mania, which can also take the form of elation during inappropriate circumstances). Other days they will sink into deep depression and you will have to take up the slack for them. The best way to help someone with bipolar disorder is to be understanding of the disorder itself. A person with bipolar disorder cannot control their moods. Telling them to snap out of it or to stop acting crazy is useless.
One of the prime triggers of bipolar (and many other psychiatric) episodes is stress. This is the one thing we can make an attempt at controlling for someone with mental illness in our group. We need to establish a good routine for everyone, when we get up, when we eat, when we go to bed to help reduce the stress of the group as a whole. We also need to keep an eye on the person with any disorder for signs that they may be getting frustrated with a task. If they are, simply help them with the task or even do the task yourself.
The following are basic tips that will help your group to better adapt to dealing with someone with almost any typical mental illness (please note, this does NOT include dealing with someone who is in the middle of a psychotic episode):
1.) One of the main things that a mental health professional is trained in is listening. They will ask questions when needed, but most of all they simply let the person with the mental health problem talk it out. This enables the person with a mental illness to have a release valve during times of heightened stress, sadness and even sometimes panic, to let off the steam and begin to calm down. Be the person who listens.
2.) AFTER the period of “release”, lighten the entire environment with a morale booster. While earlier we mentioned routines are important for day to day living, being flexible at times is equally important as well. This is particularly true during times of heightened stress. Having everyone, or at least those in your group with whom the patient is most comfortable, take time out to play a game, sing or dance (for example), even if just for a few moments, will be much more productive and healthy for the morale of the entire group after an episode. It is important that everyone be compassionate at this time, no matter how difficult, making sure their friend/loved one is not being made to feel like a burden or detriment to the group.
3.) As part of your pre-SHTF research into your group members specific condition, find out if there are known and documented natural substances or remedies that help alleviate or control symptoms. St. John’s Wort may be one possibility where daily supplements are concerned. Lavender is another possibility, particularly during a mild crisis moment, for its potential calming effects. If these (or other) natural remedies are beneficial for their condition, be certain to include them in your prep supplies. Make certain to check possible drug interactions, as it may be necessary to withhold the use of these possible remedies until after their stores of prescription medication runs out.
4.) Be extremely knowledgeable about all pre-SHTF medications and prescriptions of your group members and/or self. Many medications, psychiatric and other, have severe and even life threatening consequences if abruptly discontinued. If this is the case for your medication or a member of your group, the medication must be weened off. Depending on the medication and if it is a medication that can be “cut” (check with your doctor or pharmacist), one possible method to do this IN AN EMERGENCY, DISASTER, or COLLAPSE situation ONLY, where it is completely NOT possible to obtain a refill, take the remaining medication in divided and staggered dosages.
For example: if you have 15 days remaining, take 10 tablets and cut them in half, giving you an extra 10 days of half strength medication. After the 10 days of half dosage, take the remaining 5 tablets, and cut it into 1/4 doses. Take the 1/4 dose for 10 days. The remaining 1/4 dosages, begin to take every other day, until gone. Again, CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR OR PHARMACIST FIRST. Ask them if your particular medication can be cut without compromising it. For example, most extended-release tablets are designed to only be effective if taken whole. If this is the case with your medication, and the medication is one that has a high risk of problems associated with abrupt discontinuation, ask your doctor or pharmacist what would be the best way to ween yourself in an EMERGENCY situation (such as a hurricane, if they ask for an example). You should ask your health care providers those types of questions for all of your medications and medical conditions, now, so you know what to do in any emergency.
Again, the above methods are not likely to be extremely effective during an episode of psychosis, which leads me to some other questions that I doubt many have given much, if any, consideration or thought.
Would you knowingly plan for, or accept a known and diagnosed psychotic, such as a psychopath, sociopath or severe psychotic/delusional schizophrenic into your group in a long-term disaster/collapse situation?
What if that person was known to have and was often treated for having homicidal thoughts or tendencies?
What if that person was your spouse, parent, sibling….or child?
Tough times await, and even tougher decisions.
We would seriously love and encourage an honest and even heartfelt discussion of this topic (entire post and questions directly above), by posting a comment below. We fully understand questions such as these often cannot fully be answered unless you are actually in the situation, but we ask for your best attempt of what you believe you would do, or are doing if in a similar situation.
Thank you and many blessings,
Alicia and Mike