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A mental health crisis is any situation in which a person’s actions, feelings, and behaviors can lead to them hurting themselves or others, and/or put them at risk of being unable to care for themselves or function in the community in a healthy manner. Situations that can lead to a mental health crisis can include stress at home like conflicts with loved ones, exposure to trauma, or violence. Stress at work or school and other environmental stress can also contribute to a mental health crisis. Those with diagnosed mental illness are at greater risk of experiencing crisis, but many times crisis occurs before a mental illness has been diagnosed.

Signs that indicate someone is struggling with a mental health crisis include, but are not limited to:

  • Rapid mood swings

  • Extreme energy, or lack thereof, sleeping all the time, or being unable to sleep

  • Severe agitation, pacing

  • Talking very rapidly or non-stop

  • Confused thinking or irrational thoughts

  • Thinking everyone is out to get them or seeming to lose touch with reality

  • If they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions

  • Making threats to others or themselves

  • Isolating themselves from friends and family, not coming out of their room

  • Not eating or eating all the time, rapid weight loss or gain

  • Suicidal thoughts and statements such as “I want to die” or even possible vague statements such as “I don’t want to be here anymore”

  • Being unable to complete daily tasks like getting dressed, bathing, brushing teeth, etc

  • Showing impulsive or reckless behavior, being aggressive


Ways to Manage a Crisis

First, consider the following questions:

    • Do you feel the individual is in immediate danger to themselves or others?

    • Can you handle the situation yourself or do you need help?

    • If you need help-what type of help do you need and from who?

  • If you decide help or intervention is needed, call 911 or crisis services and let them know you are dealing with mental health emergency

  • While waiting for help, steps to try to calm/control the situation include

    • Trying to stay calm

    • Speaking slowly and confidently with a gentle, caring tone

    • Do not threaten, raise your voice, or talk too fast

    • Listen actively and try to give positive support and reassurance

    • Stay with the individual and try not to restrict their movement

    • Empathize with how they are feeling

    • Avoid making judgmental comments

  • Try to be prepared in advance. Some things you can discuss and information to gather to create a preparedness plan:

    • Know where to go for help. This can be a community mental health facility, emergency room, or psychiatric treatment facility. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

    • Identify family members and friends who can be available for help and to support the person in crisis

    • Compile the phone numbers and names of the person’s primary care doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, and/or other healthcare providers 

    • Compile a list of the medications and diagnoses they have

    • Compile a list of the emotional and verbal triggers that typically affect them

    • Share any history of drug and/or alcohol use you’re aware of, plus any history of psychosis or suicide attempts

    • Consider things that have helped to stabilize and regulate the person in the past

    • Remove weapons, unprescribed medications, and items that can cause a risk to their life

  • If the person is an immediate danger to themselves or others, do not hesitate to call 911. If they are not in immediate danger, try considering reaching out to their therapist, doctor, or psychiatrist if they have one.

      • (both the links above)

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

    • Whether you or someone you know is in crisis--whether they are considering suicide or not-- call the Lifeline to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7

  • Crisis Text Line - text HOME to 741-741 if you are in the US; text HOME to 85258 if you are in the UK; and text HOME to 686868 if you are in Canada

    • Connect with a trained crisis counselor for free, 24/7 crisis support via text message 

  • If you are outside of these countries, or want more specific hotlines, more information can be found at 


Here are some NAMI infographics on navigating a mental health crisis for more info/visuals!


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