This describes the steps you can take to help a friend or family member who is experiencing a psychiatric crisis and in need of help, primarily focusing on the civil commitment process in Virginia. A psychiatric crisis can include but is not limited to: suicidal or homicidal thinking and/or behavior, acute psychotic symptoms, increased drug or alcohol use, and sudden changes in mental status. The steps described in this guide progress from a person who is cooperative and voluntarily seeking help, to someone who is not seeking help on his or her own and may require mental health assistance via the civil commitment process. Please keep in mind that a psychiatric crisis and the commitment process, in particular, can be traumatic experiences for the individual. It is recommended to always encourage the individual to receive treatment voluntarily, as it will result in a better outcome for all involved. However, we know that at times seeking help through the commitment process is the safest course of action for the individual and his/her loved ones.
The legal age of consent for hospitalization is 14 in Virginia. This means that if the individual is a minor between the ages of 14 and 18, he or she has the legal ability to voluntarily receive services, with or without parent consent, and will be asked to sign a consent form during the facility’s intake process. However, if the individual is younger than 14 years old, the processes of evaluation, admission and treatment are at the sole discretion of the parent(s)/guardian(s).