What Really Happens During a Mental Health Crisis?

A mental health crisis refers to a situation where an individual experiences severe emotional distress or a sudden change in behavior that requires immediate attention and intervention. It could be a result of various factors such as trauma, substance abuse, or an underlying mental health condition.

The crisis could be so severe that the person might be a threat to themselves or others around them. Mental health crises are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s time, especially in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. According to a report by the cdc, about 40% of us adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse in 2020.

Mental health crises can occur in people of all ages and backgrounds and require timely and specialized intervention to prevent further harm. Identifying and understanding the warning signs associated with mental health crises can go a long way in preventing and managing such situations.

What Really Happens During a Mental Health Crisis?

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Understanding Mental Health Crisis

Defining What A Mental Health Crisis Is

Mental health crisis refers to a situation where an individual experiences intense emotional distress or overwhelming emotions that affects their daily routine and functioning. It can occur unexpectedly, leading to immediate risk to oneself or others. A mental health crisis can also result from an underlying mental health condition leading to a sudden deterioration of a person’s mental state.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of A Mental Health Crisis

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis can help you to support the individual in distress. These can include:

  • Intense feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Increased agitation or irritability
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Bewildered thinking, disorientation or confusion
  • Extreme changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Engaging in high-risk activities or behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations or self-harm actions

It is worth noting that each person is unique, and symptoms can vary from one individual to another. Still, any sudden changes in behavior or functioning should be taken as a possible sign of a mental health crisis.

Shedding Light On The Prevalence Of Mental Health Crises

Mental health crisis continues to be a serious concern, with many individuals experiencing such situations daily. According to the world health organization (who), around one in four people globally will be affected by a mental illness at some point in their lives, while one in ten people will experience a mental health crisis.

Moreover, due to the covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of mental health crisis worldwide.

Mental health crisis is a detrimental condition that can lead to severe consequences if not addressed early. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis and seeking help from a mental health professional can make a significant difference to an individual’s recovery and prevent escalation to life-threatening situations.

Different Types Of Mental Health Crises

Mental health crises can be overwhelming and sometimes scary, not only for the person experiencing it but also for their loved ones. Understanding the different types of mental health crises can help identify the appropriate treatment and support needed. Here are the most common types of mental health crises.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are sudden and intense feelings of fear, anxiety, and panic that can happen anywhere and without warning. Symptoms include sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing. To help someone experiencing a panic attack:

  • Remain calm and reassure them that everything will be okay.
  • Help them find a quiet, calming environment.
  • Encourage slow, deep breathing.
  • Offer to help them seek medical attention if needed.

Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks, also known as general anxiety disorder, are feelings of excessive worry, fear, and nervousness that can interfere with daily activities. Symptoms include racing thoughts, muscle tension, restlessness, insomnia, and irritability. To help someone experiencing an anxiety attack:

  • Provide a safe, quiet, and soothing space.
  • Encourage deep breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Help them identify any triggers and ways to avoid or manage them.
  • Encourage them to seek professional medical attention if necessary.

Suicidal Ideation And Attempts

Suicidal ideation is a serious and potentially life-threatening mental health crisis. It includes thoughts and feelings of ending one’s life, and it can escalate to suicide attempts. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation or attempts, seek emergency medical assistance immediately by calling 911 or a suicide hotline.

Substance-Induced Crises

Substance-induced crises occur when the use of drugs or alcohol triggers severe and sudden mental health symptoms, such as psychosis, depression, or anxiety. It can also lead to physical symptoms, including seizures, tremors, and hallucinations. If you suspect someone is experiencing substance-induced crises:

  • Call for medical assistance immediately.
  • Keep them safe from harm and provide a calm and supportive environment.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help for substance abuse.

Psychotic Breaks

Psychotic breaks are severe and sudden episodes of delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, and speech. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. If you observe someone experiencing a psychotic break:

  • Call for emergency medical attention.
  • Engage with them calmly and provide constant reassurance.
  • Ensure their safety and avoid any confrontation.
  • Provide support and encourage them to seek medical help immediately.

Understanding the different types of mental health crises can help identify the necessary treatment and support needed. It is important to seek professional help for any mental health concern, and remember that with proper treatment and support, recovery is possible.



The Role Of Family And Friends During A Mental Health Crisis

How To Recognize Signs Of Mental Health Crisis In Loved Ones

It is essential to understand the signs of a mental health crisis to provide immediate support to your loved ones. Here are some symptoms you should look out for:

  • Rapid mood swings or extreme mood changes
  • Shifts in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Withdrawing from social interactions
  • Avoiding responsibilities or work
  • Intense fears or anxieties
  • Risky behavior like substance abuse or aggressive actions

Encouraging Open Communication About Mental Health

Open lines of communication with your loved ones can help in spotting the initial signs of a mental health crisis. The following tips can assist you in breaking down barriers and starting the conversation about mental health:

  • Initiate the conversation gently and ensure the person feels comfortable
  • Provide a safe and non-judgmental space in which they can express their feelings
  • Listen actively and acknowledge their emotions
  • Encourage them to seek professional help
  • Keep the conversation ongoing and check in with them regularly

Understanding How To Provide Support During A Crisis

When someone close to us has a mental health crisis, it can be overwhelming. However, there are ways you can provide the support they need:

  • Educate yourself on available resources and treatment options
  • Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Allow them to express their feelings and thoughts without interruption
  • Help them identify supportive friends or family and encourage them to reach out for help
  • Provide reassurance and hope, convey your belief they can improve

Guidelines For Interventions, Boundaries, And Self-Care Support

Most individuals with a mental health crisis require professional interventions. However, you can play a key role by offering support through the following guidelines:

  • Set clear boundaries that you are comfortable with
  • Understand when to involve emergency services
  • Collaborate with the healthcare providers to ensure the loved one gets the best possible care
  • Do not take their behavior personally or take on the burden of responsibility for their condition
  • Ensure you are taking good care of yourself, mentally and physically, while providing support to your loved one.

Remember, patience and consistency are crucial when supporting your loved ones during a mental health crisis. Being there for them and providing support can make all the difference in their recovery journey.

Emergency Mental Health Services And Support Resources

Overview Of The Available Support Resources And Services

Individuals experiencing mental health crises require immediate and appropriate intervention. Fortunately, there are many emergency mental health services and support resources available to those in need. Here are some of the support resources and services available:

  • National suicide prevention lifeline: This network provides free and confidential emotional support to individuals in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The hotline is available 24/7 for anyone experiencing a crisis, as well as for their friends and family.
  • Crisis text line: This service allows individuals to text with a trained counselor in real-time. It’s accessible 24/7 by texting “home” to 741741.
  • Emergency room: In a life-threatening emergency, such as suicidal or homicidal thoughts or behaviors, individuals can visit their nearest emergency room or call 911.
  • Mobile crisis hotline: This service provides mobile crisis intervention and counseling to individuals experiencing emotional distress or mental health crises.
  • Mental health america: This nonprofit organization offers a comprehensive list of mental health resources and information, including self-help tools and support groups.

Types Of Mental Health Professionals And Their Roles In Crisis Management

Mental health professionals play an essential role in managing mental health crises. Here are some of the types of professionals who can assist during a crisis:

  • Psychologists: These professionals diagnose and treat mental health conditions and can provide talk therapy, behavior therapy, and other forms of therapy to help individuals manage their symptoms.
  • Psychiatrists: These professionals are medical doctors who are specialized in treating mental health conditions. They can prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy.
  • Social workers: These professionals provide counseling and connect individuals with resources related to mental health, including support groups, financial assistance, and healthcare services.
  • Counselors: These professionals provide counseling to individuals, couples, and families, assisting with issues related to mental health, substance abuse, personal growth, and relationships.

Best Practices For Accessing Emergency Mental Health Support

It’s essential to know how to access emergency mental health support in case of a crisis. Here are some best practices on how to do so:

  • Save important crisis hotlines and resources on your phone or in a safe, easily accessible place.
  • Reach out to friends and family for support and ask them for advice on how to access support.
  • If you’re not sure what to do in a crisis, call the national suicide prevention lifeline or another crisis hotline for guidance.
  • Be honest and specific when talking to professionals about your situation, symptoms, and feelings. This allows them to provide the best possible support.
  • If you’re in a life-threatening emergency, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Remember that accessing emergency mental health support is a critical step in managing a mental health crisis. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you or someone you know is in need.

What Really Happens During A Mental Health Crisis?

Storytelling Of A Mental Health Crisis

It can be challenging to understand what happens during a mental health crisis, but here’s a story to give you an idea. Jane had been dealing with depression and anxiety for months, but one day she just couldn’t handle it anymore.

She felt hopeless, helpless and alone. Suddenly, she started to have suicidal thoughts and couldn’t control them.

A Step-By-Step Guide Of How The Person In Crisis Was Supported And The Resources Utilized

When jane reached out to a friend for help, they immediately recognized the severity of the situation and called a crisis helpline. The helpline counsellor asked jane some questions to assess her level of risk and decided that she needed to go to the hospital.

The counsellor arranged transportation and stayed on the phone with jane’s friend, who was with her during the call.

At the hospital, jane was assessed by a mental health professional who made sure she was stable, safe and no longer at risk of self-harm. The healthcare provider then helped her to develop a plan to deal with her ongoing mental health challenges.

Throughout the process, jane, her friend and the healthcare providers used a range of resources, including crisis helplines, mental health facilities, and mental health professionals, to support her.

Taking A Closer Look At The ‘Behind-The-Scenes’ Experience Of A Mental Health Crisis

While the process of supporting someone during a mental health crisis may seem straightforward, it can be challenging. Healthcare providers, crisis helplines, and other resources work together to provide the necessary care and support. Some things happening behind the scenes may include:

  • Trained healthcare providers working around the clock to respond to crisis situations
  • Specialist teams working to develop modern and innovative tools to support mental health care
  • Research, policy, and advocacy organizations working to improve the mental health system
  • Families, friends, and support networks coming together to help their loved ones

A mental health crisis can happen to anyone at any time. It’s essential to know that support is available, and there’s no shame in seeking help. The key to getting through a mental health crisis is understanding that help is just a phone call away.

Frequently Asked Questions Of What Is A Mental Health Crisis

What Is Considered A Mental Health Crisis?

A mental health crisis is a situation where a person’s mental or emotional state puts them at risk of harming themselves or others. It could be triggered by a variety of factors, including trauma, addiction, or a serious health condition.

How Do You Know If Someone Is Having A Mental Health Crisis?

Signs that someone is experiencing a mental health crisis might include extreme mood swings, changes in behavior or personality, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm behaviors. If you are concerned about someone, it’s best to seek help from a mental health professional.

What Should You Do If You Are Experiencing A Mental Health Crisis?

If you are in crisis, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. This might include calling a crisis hotline or seeking support at a local hospital or mental health center. It’s important to remember that there is always help available, and that recovery is possible.

Can A Mental Health Crisis Be Prevented?

While some mental health crises may be difficult to predict or prevent, there are steps you can take to support your mental health and reduce your risk of crisis. These might include seeking therapy or counseling, practicing self-care, and learning healthy coping skills.

How Can You Support Someone In A Mental Health Crisis?

If someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, the most important thing you can do is offer support and compassion. Encourage them to seek professional help, and offer to help them find resources or connect with a therapist.

Remember to take care of your own mental health needs as well.


It is important to focus on mental health issues, as they affect us all in different ways. Mental health crisis can take different forms such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, panic disorders, substance abuse and many more. Individuals with a mental health crisis often experience intense mental and emotional distress, making it challenging for them to maintain social relationships and perform their day-to-day activities.

Mental health professionals believe that taking preventative measures like self-care and regular conversations about mental health are crucial to mitigate the risk of mental health crises. Overall, mental health is a complex and often overlooked aspect of our overall well-being but with increased awareness, understanding and treatment options, individuals can get the support they need to manage their mental health.

It’s important to be empathetic and provide support to loved ones suffering from a mental health crisis and strive for a more inclusive and supportive society.

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