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Getting Help During a Mental Health Crisis

Overview

When you live with a mental health condition, there may be times when you lose your emotional balance. That can put your health or even your life at risk. It may be hard to know what to do when you're in the midst of a crisis, so it's helpful to think ahead. These steps can help you be ready.

  1. Identify your sources of support.

    There are many places to turn when you're in a crisis. These are just a few ideas. You may have others. For example, you might contact:

    • A trusted friend or family member. Make a list of some people you can count on in a crisis.
    • Your doctor or mental health professional.
    • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Trained counselors are available 24/7 to advise you in a crisis. It's free, and it's confidential.
    • The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). During a crisis, you can text 741741 for free 24/7 support from a trained counselor. You can also call the NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-6264) or go online (www.nami.org/help) to chat with a trained volunteer.

    It's a good idea to put these numbers in your phone.

  2. Assess your situation.

    Have you dealt with a mental health crisis before? What happened then? What brought it on? What signs or symptoms did you have?

    Then think about what's happening now. What symptoms are you having? Are they like the ones you had before? Are they getting worse? Is there a chance that you could hurt yourself or someone else?

    This is also a good time to think about how you got through a previous crisis. What coping strategies helped you? Could you use them this time?

  3. Get the help you need.

    Don't be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help. We all need support from time to time, and there are people who want to help. The sooner you get support, the sooner you'll get through a crisis.

    • Get help right away if you think you could be in danger. One example is having a plan to harm yourself or someone else. But you know best which signs mean you're having a crisis. If you're not sure, get emergency help. Call 911 or go to an emergency room, and tell them you're having a mental health crisis.
    • If you're struggling but not in danger now, reach out to your sources of support. For instance, call a trusted friend or relative. Tell them how you're feeling, and ask if they can be with you until you're doing better. Or call a crisis hotline for advice and support.
    • Call your doctor or mental health professional too. They can help you decide on your next steps. You may need more or different treatment.

When to call for help

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have one or more warning signs of suicide. For example, call if:
    • You feel like giving away your possessions.
    • You use illegal drugs or drink alcohol heavily.
    • You talk or write about death. This may include writing suicide notes and talking about guns, knives, or pills.
    • You start to spend a lot of time alone or spend more time alone than usual.
  • You hear voices.
  • You start acting in an aggressive way that's not normal for you.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Credits

Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine