• December 2, 2023

It’s a very sad process, but let’s go through it together.

Anyone might consider any form of non-consensual medication as unhelpful or downright harmful. But that someone may not have also experienced an emergency situation where it seems like the only option. Like the hospital ER, which is the most obvious example where medications are administered without consent for varying reasons, mental health challenges also create situations leading to emergency medication.

The idea of consent sometimes limits life-saving intervention

For a good reason, several state laws make it possible for licensed mental health and medical professionals to administer certain minor medication under specific conditions. If a parent or guardian is not present when the specific conditions occur, minor medication has to be administered to save the situation.

Also, a law observed in many US states known as 5150 allows medical professionals, including psychiatrists, to hold anyone in an emergency mental health situation for up to 72 hours.

What kinds of situations lead to medication without parental consent or involuntary hold?

You may have already guessed that it has to be an emergency. But, there are more specifics to help you understand what is considered an emergency, especially if it involves mental health challenges.

  1. When the child or adolescent is a danger to themselves;
Common risk factors danger to yourself
  1. When the child or adolescent is a danger to others:
Common risk factors danger to others

A lot of detail goes into determining when a child or adolescent/teenager is a danger to themselves or others. Many people disagree on these checkboxes used to decide on a child’s or teenager’s mental health situation, even when the examination or evaluation is done.

Let’s just say that these factors that health professionals, whether psychologists or psychiatrists, use for evaluation act as a map more than anything else.

Can a 5150 make a difference during a mental health crisis?


Many people may disagree because of their personal feelings. Still, it makes sense that any emergency that can escalate or lead to a child or adolescent harming themselves or others should be de-escalated.

Indeed, any observation of the 5150 code should be carried out humanely as possible, and any improper use of the code reported. In addition to the power to administer minor medication until a parent or guardian arrives to give proper consent, a 5150 allows anyone experiencing a mental health challenge to be institutionalized (the modern term for the older phrase committed to a psych ward).

A 5150 does not also mean that the person has to stay the whole 72 hours. At every stage in the process, a parent or guardian can contest the process in front of a judge, and a release can be granted based on examined evidence. When the 5150 ends (i.e., at the end of 72 hours) and the child or teen is still considered a danger to themselves or others, the hold moves into a 5250, which lasts 14 more days.

Why You Should Not Panic…

More times than not, the psychiatrists or psychologists who examine for any risk factors in teenagers who may self-harm or harm others are qualified. Even more so, strict procedures ensure that only the least amount of medication possible to de-escalate the situation is administered until the hospital or healthcare center can contact a parent or guardian to discuss more options.

When in doubt, choose to collaborate more than fight the mental health experts until you have a clear reason (e.g., racial discrimination, prior medical knowledge, other care violations, etc.) to oppose their healthcare provision.

I hope this helps!

Desmond utilizes his knowledge of education policy from his undergrad, his Masters of Education from Johns Hopkins, and a variety of advanced certifications such as CHPC and LWT to construct prime academic intervention programs and homework/executive functioning support for all his students.

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