Getting Treatment During a Mental Health Crisis

A mental health crisis can be overwhelming and frightening, but immediate intervention and appropriate care can significantly improve outcomes. This article outlines the essential steps to take when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, the available resources, and how to ensure safety and support during these critical moments.

Recognizing a Mental Health Crisis

A mental health crisis occurs when an individual’s usual coping mechanisms are insufficient, leading to an inability to function effectively, potential harm to themselves or others, or severe emotional distress.

Common Signs:
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Self-harm or threats of self-harm.
  • Severe anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Psychotic episodes, including hallucinations or delusions.
  • Violent or aggressive behavior.
  • Extreme mood swings or sudden withdrawal from daily activities.
Immediate Steps to Take
Ensure Safety:
  • Stay Calm:
    Approach the situation calmly to avoid escalating emotions.
  • Remove Harmful Objects:
    Ensure that any potential weapons or harmful objects are out of reach.
  • Do Not Leave Them Alone:
    Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
Contact Emergency Services:
  • Call 911:
    If there is an immediate threat to the person's safety or the safety of others, call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Crisis Hotlines:
    For situations that are urgent but not life-threatening, contact a mental health crisis hotline. Examples include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
Reach Out to Mental Health Professionals:
  • Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT):
    Some areas have specialized police units trained to handle mental health crises.
  • Emergency Room:
    Take the person to the nearest emergency room for immediate assessment and care.
Finding Immediate Help

During a crisis, access to immediate and professional help is crucial. There are several resources and services available to provide urgent care.

Crisis Hotlines and Text Lines:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
    Provides 24/7 support for people in distress.
  • Crisis Text Line:
    Offers free, 24/7 support via text messages for those in crisis.
Mobile Crisis Units:
  • Mobile Crisis Teams:
    These teams of mental health professionals provide on-site crisis intervention and stabilization in many communities.
Walk-In Crisis Centers:
  • Crisis Stabilization Units:
    These centers offer short-term, intensive care for individuals in crisis, providing immediate support and stabilization.
Following Up After a Crisis

After the immediate crisis has passed, ongoing support and follow-up care are essential to ensure long-term stability and recovery.

Schedule Follow-Up Appointments:
  • Mental Health Professionals:
    Ensure the individual has follow-up appointments with therapists, psychiatrists, or counselors.
  • Primary Care Providers:
    Inform primary care doctors of the crisis to coordinate overall health care.
Create a Safety Plan:
  • Develop a Plan:
    Work with mental health professionals to create a personalized safety plan, including coping strategies and emergency contacts.
  • Share the Plan:
    Ensure that family members or close friends are aware of the plan and can assist if needed.
Engage in Continuous Support:
  • Therapy and Counseling:
    Regular therapy sessions can help address underlying issues and prevent future crises.
  • Support Groups:
    Encourage participation in support groups for ongoing peer support and shared experiences.
Preventing Future Crises

Prevention involves creating a supportive environment, managing stress, and addressing early warning signs before they escalate.

Identify Triggers and Early Warning Signs:
  • Monitor Symptoms:
    Keep track of any changes in behavior, mood, or thought patterns that may indicate the onset of a crisis.
  • ● Communicate:
    Encourage open communication about feelings and concerns.
Build a Support Network:
  • Family and Friends:
    Ensure a strong support system of trusted individuals who can provide assistance and understanding.
  • Community Resources:
    Utilize community resources, such as mental health organizations and support groups.
Implement Stress Management Techniques:
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation:
    Practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help manage stress.
  • Healthy Lifestyle:
    Encourage a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep.

Experiencing a mental health crisis is a challenging and distressing event, but knowing how to respond effectively can make a significant difference. Immediate intervention, professional help, and ongoing support are crucial for stabilization and recovery. By understanding the signs of a crisis, taking prompt action, and utilizing available resources, individuals and their loved ones can navigate through the crisis and work towards long-term mental health and well-being.

Additional Resources