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:
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
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
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
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.