When you live with a mental health condition, your brain and body often send you a message that makes you feel like you are in a crisis situation. But sometimes you may find yourself in a dangerous situation.
For our purposes here, a crisis might mean getting in trouble with the law or injuring yourself accidentally or on purpose. It's also a crisis situation if you find yourself developing a plan to take your own life or are considering hurting others.
Evaluate the Situation
What is the nature of your crisis? Is it something that requires treatment urgently?
If you have developed a plan to kill yourself, that's an immediate mental health crisis and you should go to a hospital emergency room or call 911.
If you're not sure if it's urgent, ask yourself if you have already thought about what method you would use. If you've thought about where, how or when you would take your life, that means you've begun developing a plan.
If you're still hesitating, ask a friend or family member to stay with you while you may be at risk. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
And get in touch with your mental health professionals. Tell professionals and the people around you what's going on and get their advice. You don’t need to be sworn to secrecy.
Avoiding a Crisis
If you live with a mental health condition, it's important to plan ahead. Talk with your treatment team can think about where to go for intensive treatment and how to get there, how to take time off work or explain your absence to others, and what methods you can use to calm yourself in an emergency.
Above all, you and those closest to you should know how to reach your mental health professionals in case of an emergency. It's also valuable to know the phone number of a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), if your area has one. CIT officers are police officers trained to handle crisis situations involving mental illness.
If your health condition has grown worse recently, but you are not having thoughts of suicide, it could mean that you need to seek help or make changes to your treatment plan if you are already receiving treatment.
Talk with Your Doctor
The first thing to do if you feel your health worsening is to call your mental health professionals and explain the situation. Don’t be afraid to speak openly and honestly about what is and isn’t working with your treatment plan.
If you don't currently have a mental health professional, make an urgent appointment with a primary care physician just as you would for the flu or an infection, so that you can begin finding professional support quickly.
Reach Out to Others
In difficult times, many people benefit from reaching out to friends, family and support groups for encouragement. The NAMI HelpLine—800-950-6264 or [email protected]—can offer you sympathy and support and provide you information about resources in your community.
It can also be helpful to call a "warmline"—a phone number where trained volunteers offer sympathy and support. To find a warmline in your area, dial 211, or go to www.211.info, for information on local social services. However, both of these support lines are often peers living with a mental health condition and are not trained crisis counselors.
Take Care of Yourself
Think about what has helped stabilize you in the past and create a “toolbox” of coping mechanisms. Would it help to talk to a friend? To meditate or take a nap? To exercise or go for a walk? Take action to help yourself, even if you doubt it will work. Doubt and feelings of helplessness may be symptoms of a mental health condition. Do something that might make you feel better and observe how you feel afterwards.
Your immediate discomfort will be easier to bear if you have a long-term treatment plan, because you can remind yourself that your difficult times are becoming fewer and less severe. Remember that you are not alone and help is available.
Download Our Crisis Guide