The Telephone in Psychiatric Emergencies

  • Barbara Schuler Gilmore
Part of the Critical Issues in Psychiatry book series (CIPS)


The human voice was first conveyed electronically through space in March 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell summoned his assistant with the memorable words “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”1 Since that time, the telephone has evolved from a costly luxury to an essential part of life. The telephone has made immediate communication possible, even over vast distances. For medicine, in particular, the telephone has had an enormous impact on the availability of health care; it is literally a “physician extender” and can be used for diagnostic purposes (e.g., electrocardiogram transmissions), medical arrangements (e.g., admission to the hospital), and consultation.2–7 The telephone, however, is no substitute for face-to-face contact. Especially in psychiatry, the lack of visual cues presents a decided handicap in evaluating a patient’s behavioral and emotional symptoms. For accurate assessment and management, it is generally not enough to hear what the patient says about himself; at times, however, the telephone may be the first and only link with the patient in crisis.8–10


Mental Health System Suicide Prevention Community Mental Health Center Crisis Intervention Telephone Counseling 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Schuler Gilmore
    • 1
  1. 1.Newton-Wellesley HospitalNewton Lower FallsUSA

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