Crisis Services: Identifying a Crisis

Recognize the signs

People can experience a mental health crisis due to a wide range of situations. What might not seem like a mental health crisis to you might be a mental health crisis to someone else. Some people who are struggling may not show any signs of a mental health crisis.

Adults

Some signs that an adult may be experiencing a mental health crisis include but are not limited to the following:

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time.
  • Hopelessness; feeling like there’s no way out.
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings.
  • Feeling as if there is no reason to live.
  • Feeling excessive guilt, shame, or sense of failure.
  • Rage or anger.
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking.
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, or school.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Neglecting personal hygiene.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Getting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or writing a will.

Youth

Some signs that a child may be experiencing a mental health crisis include but are not limited to the following:

  • Rapid mood swings.
  • Extreme energy or lack of it, sleeping all the time, or being unable to sleep.
  • Severe agitation, pacing.
  • Talking very rapidly or non-stop.
  • Confused thinking or irrational thoughts.
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family, not coming out of their room.
  • Not eating or eating all the time, rapid weight loss or gain.
 

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 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) .

 


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:

My 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: September 13, 2021