JOPLIN, Mo. — Imagine someone landing in the ER following a mental health crisis. At Freeman Health System, one of the most important people those patients meet during that time is a psychiatrist to help with the next steps.

“Every day I see suicidal patients,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bradley, Psychiatry Medical Director.

Dr. Jeffrey Bradley is Freeman Health System and Ozark Center’s Medical Director of Psychiatry. He often asks patients about those dark thoughts.

“It comes like that and it often goes pretty quickly, too. But in that moment, it feels as if there’s no options,” he said.

He sees a variety of patients when they’re often at a very low point.

“Patients who are not cognitively functioning well enough to take care of themselves. Patients who are manic or psychotic or aggressive. Those all get referred.”

When they come into the Emergency Room, he assesses what patients need to become safe for themselves and others.

“Do they need to go to the psych hospital? Do they need to go upstairs here because there’s physical health issues? Can they be discharged to various levels of care?”

Part of the philosophy at Freeman Health System — and for Dr. Bradley — is treating the whole person, not just the reason they came to the ER.

“I find very few, if any, patients who experience what we would call ‘mental distress’ who weren’t experiencing physical symptoms,” he said.

Dr. Bradley says his goal is to treat everyone like they’re a family member.

“People, when they feel cared about, all the crisis stuff, that tends to settle down, especially in a couple days,” he added.

He hopes the culture changes around how psychiatric patients are viewed, urging understanding and compassion.

“Being available in a non-judgemental way to provide real, concrete help and active listening, you know, it’s really powerful.”

Because he believes it takes a community effort.

“To educate as many people as possible about how to take care of each other,” he said.

If you know anyone struggling with their mental health and they need someone to talk to, we want to remind you about the 9-8-8 Lifeline. You can call or text and be directly connected with a crisis counselor.