How to Help Someone in a Mental Health Crisis

Published On: October 20, 2020|Categories: Mental Health|
Hand Reaching Out to Help Someone Struggling

Many individuals are experiencing new or worse mental health symptoms due to intense fear or stress relating to the pandemic. Those with a mental health disorder may be at risk for a mental health crisis.

A crisis can be overwhelming not only for those experiencing it, but also for their friends and family. If you or someone you know has a mental health disorder, it’s important to understand the signs of an emergency situation. Learn more about mental health crises to help plan ahead and take action if needed.

What is a Mental Health Crisis?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a mental health crisis is any situation in which a person’s behavior puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others. A crisis can also mean that an individual is unable to care for themselves or function.

A mental health crisis can take many forms:

  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis (loss of reality)
  • Reckless behavior, such as getting in trouble with the law

Warning signs may not be present before a mental health crisis occurs, however signs typically include sudden or extreme changes in behavior or mood:

  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Reckless or impulsive behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme changes in mood
  • Extreme changes in sleep

Causes of a Mental Health Crisis

A mental health crisis is usually the result of extreme stress, fear, or anxiety. There are many reasons that someone can experience a mental health emergency, including:

  • Any type of loss, including the loss of a loved one
  • Relationship changes with a loved one or significant other
  • Work stressors, such as losing a job
  • Trouble in school
  • Trauma, natural disasters, terrorism
  • Racism
  • Mental health treatments, including medications, no longer working
  • Stopping medications or treatment

Importantly, a mental health diagnosis or co-occurring disorder can increase the risk of a crisis. Furthermore, someone with a mental health diagnosis may be more likely to attempt suicide. If you have a mental health disorder, work with your counselor to develop a crisis plan.

A crisis can also be a sign of an undiagnosed mental health disorder. A professional needs to perform an assessment in order to make a diagnosis, however, this information can be helpful in finding resources and treatment.

How You Can Help

Because of the potential for danger, it’s important to take any crisis situation seriously. Fortunately, you can help someone who is having a mental health emergency by doing a number of things:

  • Creating a safe and comfortable environment
  • Asking questions about what they’re experiencing
  • Using an empathetic tone when talking with them
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Not minimizing their feelings
  • Offering options to the person in crisis, rather than telling them what to do

You may not know what to say, and that’s okay. The best thing you can do is be there for them.

If you are unable to de-escalate the situation on your own, contact a mental health professional for help. Other resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or NAMI HelpLine can offer support and next steps.

You should always call 9-1-1 if it is a life-threatening emergency. Ask about a Crisis Intervention team if your community has one.

Treatment Programs

There are a variety of treatment options for people with mental health disorders. Pyramid Healthcare provides outpatient mental health treatment for people with new symptoms or present conditions. We also provide teletherapy services for individuals who are unable to leave their homes.

Outpatient treatment may not be recommended for someone in a crisis, however it can be an appropriate level of care following inpatient treatment.

To work with a licensed mental health counselor from Pyramid Healthcare, contact our 24/7 admissions department. Our staff can assist you with scheduling an assessment and getting treatment.

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