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Crisis Services: Identifying a Crisis

People can have a mental health crisis for many reasons. What may not seem like a crisis to you might be a crisis to someone else. How you react might also be different. It’s important to know the common signs of a crisis, so you can get help.

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Know the signs of a crisis

These signs require attention right away:

  • Attempts or threats to harm or kill
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Extreme withdrawal
  • Not sleeping or eating for many days
  • Verbal or physical abuse

If the person is in danger, call 911. If the person’s life isn’t in danger, call their county crisis line or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

An adult or child having a crisis may show all or none of these signs:


  • Acting in violent ways, such as punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights
  • Doing risky activities without thinking
  • Feeling:
    • Anxious or agitated
    • Hopeless, or like there’s no reason to live
    • Lots of guilt, shame, or failure
    • Rage or anger
    • Sad or depressed most of the time
    • Getting affairs in order or writing a will
    • Giving away prized possessions
    • Having mood swings
    • Increasing misuse of alcohol or drugs
    • Losing interest in hobbies, work, or school
    • Neglecting personal hygiene
    • Not being able to sleep


  • Being very agitated or pacing
  • Having either extreme energy or no energy
  • Feeling confused with irrational thoughts
  • Gaining or losing weight quickly
  • Having rapid mood swings
  • Isolating from friends and family, not coming out of their room
  • Not eating or eating all the time
  • Sleeping all the time or not being able to sleep
  • Talking very quickly or non-stop

These signs require immediate attention:

  • Attempts or threats to harm or kill
  • Verbal or physical abuse
  • Excessive withdrawal
  • Not sleeping or eating for several days
  • Delusions, hallucinations

If the person is in danger, call 911. If the situation is not life-threatening, call the crisis line for the person's county or 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

After a mental health crisis, healing and understanding what happened is a process. Whether the person who experienced the mental health crisis is an adult or youth, they will need support on this journey. Here are some things you can do to support them:

  • Ask them how you can help them follow their treatment plan.
  • Listen carefully for the emotions and thoughts behind their words.
  • Respect their feelings and decisions about their healing, even if you don’t always agree.
  • Don’t rush them. Healing will take time.
  • Express your support out loud.
  • Don’t give up. And let your loved one know you aren’t giving up.

Being prepared for a mental health crisis

If you frequently experience mental health crisis situations, consider making a written plan so people can better support you in your time of need. A simple plan can be written on an index card and kept in a pocket, bag, or on the refrigerator because it can be hard to remember important things during a mental health crisis. Here is an example:

Sample crisis response plan

  • My mental health crisis warning signs: Irritable, grinding teeth, thinking about walking out of the situation I’m in, being short with people, having negative thoughts about myself
  • Things I will do my own to respond to my mental health crisis: Count to 10 while deep breathing, splash my face with cold water, go for a walk
  • My reasons for living: My nephew and my cats
  • My social supports: Call ABC, 555-555-5555; call XYZ, 777-777-7777 (People typically list a friend or family member here)
  • My professional supports: Use the Crisis Text Line - Text HOPELINE to 741741; call ABC County Crisis Line - 555-555-5555; call my therapist - 777-777-7777 and leave a voicemail.

Be as specific as you can about who to call or text. List their names and phone numbers.

You may also want to create a Wellness Recovery Action Plan or WRAP. A WRAP is a tool you can use to get well or get on track, stay well or stay on track, and make your life the way you want it to be. WRAP is for anyone, any time. It will support you in being the way you want to be and doing the things you want to do. Learn how a WRAP can help you.

Last revised January 2, 2024