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What to expect if you need help from the Maine police when dealing with your loved one’s mental illness.


Are you feeling scared or threatened?

Sometimes people we care about with mental illness act in ways that make us feel unsafe. It’s important to remember that YOUR SAFETY and the safety of others in your home should be your first priority.


Go to a safe place, such as the home of a friend, neighbor or other family member. Once you’re safe, CALL FOR HELP.

When you call 911, tell them:

  • It’s a mental health emergency.
  • Request no sirens or lights (if possible)
  • Give them a diagnosis if you know it
  • Describe the behavior that made you feel threatened or scared.
  • Tell them, if you know for certain, whether the person has access to guns, knives or other weapons.
  • Ask for a CIT officer (Crisis Intervention Team) if one is available. (see below)

Do NOT return to your home no matter how much you want to help.

  • We often hear people say “I know him/her and they would not hurt me.” During times of crisis, when they are actively ill, the person we know and love is thinking irrationally. The illness is firmly in charge.
  • While it is hard to stand by and do nothing, it is best to let professionals intervene at this point.

Keep this in mind, depending on where you live in Maine:

  • Some Maine towns and cities have CIT officers (Crisis Intervention Team). They’re specially trained to recognize and work with people experiencing a mental health crisis. You can ask for a CIT trained officer to be sent to help with your loved one when you call 911, but please be aware that a CIT officer is not always immediately available.
  • When the police respond to your call, their priority is the safety of everyone involved – the police officers as well as the safety of you and your loved one.
  • How the police will proceed will depend on a variety of factors, but remember that at this point, you have given them the authority to manage the situation. This is what they are trained to do.
  • If you decided to stay where your loved one is, it’s very likely that they’ll ask you to step aside or even to leave the area so they can assess what’s happening and intervene to de-escalate the situation.

Sometimes, your loved one may be placed under arrest.

When this happens, things can seem out of control, confusing and overwhelming.

If your loved one is under 18,

If your loved one is an adult,

  • The police may place your loved one in protective custody to keep them safe. This usually involves your loved one being taken for a mental health evaluation at an area hospital. In this instance, they are not under arrest.
  • If your loved one is combative or has committed assaults or threats, an arrest may be made. Even in this situation, the mental health care needs of your loved one will come first. They may be either arrested and/or placed in handcuffs or other restraints as a safety measure. However, if there have been on-going mental health issues, the priority will be to get them a psychological evaluation. It the situation is serious enough the individual may be guarded during this process and taken to jail afterward.

More often than not, your loved one will not be arrested, but that determination must be made by the police officers on the scene.

Be proactive. If you know your loved one is struggling or could end up in crisis, it is a good idea to remove any weapons (to the extent possible) from your home. In some cases, individuals can be impulsive and having ready access to weapons of a variety of types just makes for a dangerous situation.

Words from a Maine police chief:

Family Hope would like to thank Chief Robbie Moulton of Scarborough, ME for all his help on this section of our website. In his words:

“First, I would like family members to understand that the police want your loved one to get help just like you do. It is not in our best interest to continually be responding to a home where a family member is in crisis, so we have a vested interest in seeing the person get healthy. Sometimes this gets confusing for family members because even though we have that interest, we must also respond with appropriate actions in terms of the criminal activities that the person may have engaged in.

“The second thing I would like to make sure people understand is that the individual that we may be dealing with in this time of crisis MAY NOT BE the loving individual that they know. We often get family members who want to help and will tell us ‘I can go in there and talk with him/her…they wouldn’t hurt me’. I would agree that the loving person they know in a non-crisis environment would not hurt them. Unfortunately, when the individual is in crisis [their mental illness may be in control] and may in fact be very dangerous to themselves and others including their loved ones.”


If you’re worried that a crisis is about to happen, these additional tips may help.


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- Edward S. Ame


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PO Box 1385
Scarborough, ME 04070-1385




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Family Hope is Maine's resource for finding mental health services. We do not endorse any one program or organization. Our mission is to connect you to options, saving you time and frustration.
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