Psychiatric Advance Directives

Overview

A psychiatric advance directive is a legal form that describes the care you want during a mental health crisis. You can put treatment choices in this form, like which medicines and hospitals you prefer. You can also include personal details, such as who to contact in an emergency.

You fill out this form when you are feeling well. It's only used if your condition makes you unable to decide on your treatment. During a crisis, a person you choose will use this form to make choices for you. That person is called a health care agent.

These forms can be different for each state. And they often have two parts. The first part is where you describe your wishes. The second part is called the medical power of attorney. This is where you name your health care agent.

Why would you want one?

During a mental health crisis, you may be unable to say what you need. This form gives health professionals and family members tips to help you get out of crisis. For example, it can list things that make you feel worse. And it can say what's helped you get better in the past.

How do you make one?

Here are some things to know as you create your psychiatric advance directive.

  • Find and use your state's forms.

    Some states have a special mental health care form to fill out. Other states may have a general form you can use. One resource for forms is the National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives. You can visit the center's website at nrc-pad.org to find the form for your state.

  • Choose your health care agent.

    Find someone who understands and respects your wishes about medical treatment. This could be a family member, a friend, or someone else you trust. But it can't be someone who provides your health care, like your doctor or counselor. Add your health care agent's information to the medical power of attorney section of your form.

  • Ask for help to fill out your form, if you need it.

    This could be your counselor, your doctor, a friend, or a family member. Together you can decide which treatment details to include.

  • Make several copies of your form.

    Give them to your counselor, doctor, and health care agent, and to a trusted family member. And keep one for yourself.

  • Understand when your form might not be followed.

    Sometimes laws can affect how your wishes are carried out. You can talk to your counselor or doctor to find out how this works in your state.

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