FIRST of all… Take a deep breath, breathe in, breathe out. Ground yourself, and prepare to listen carefully. I want to share with you a few helpful practices on “How To Support People Who Are In a Mental Health Crisis” from my years of experience of being a Health/Patient Advocate whose practice includes Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Crisis Management as well as Medical issues.
Suppose you are a Health or Patient Advocate, part of a support system, or find yourself in a situation where someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, this article will help you de-escalate the crisis, get the individual to appropriate resources, and identify some do’s and don’ts when managing the situation during and after the fact.
Let’s start by defining what is a “mental health crisis?”
PsychiatricTimes describes a mental health crisis as “a situation in which a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can put them in jeopardy of harming themselves or others and/or put them at risk of being unable to care for themselves or access food, clothing, and shelter. Crises also include acute conditions that could quickly deteriorate into dangerousness or inability to care for self, even if those issues do not currently pose a problem. A mental health crisis can surface anywhere—in public, in the home or work environment, or in any number of clinical settings.”
With this being said, for someone who is not having a mental health crisis and is dealing with the individual in crisis, this type of situation can be overwhelming, but you can still help. I have outlined some suggested steps and approaches that you can adopt to take action, de-escalate the crisis, and get the individual the appropriate help as quickly as possible:
As an advocate or support system, it is crucial to take care of yourself first, or to borrow a phrase, “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” Self-care, defined in more ways than one, is essential to sustainably care for or support someone else and have a sense of clarity when dealing with an overwhelming, intense situation.
Who | Where
I am here to reassure you that you are not alone, and resources have developed within the last few years to provide the appropriate care for someone with a mental health crisis.
For example, CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets), is a mobile crisis intervention program taking on social service calls for crisis counseling. CAHOOTS was first developed in Eugene, OR and similar programs based on its model have now been rolled out in several other locations around the country. In those locations where it is offered, this program is an excellent resource to be familiar with that “often provide[s] initial contact and transport for people who are intoxicated, mentally ill, or disoriented, as well as transport for necessary non-emergency medical care.” Each van is staffed with a medic (nurse or EMT) and an experienced crisis worker. An interesting stat is that CAHOOTS in Eugene diverts 5-8% of calls from Police as they are qualified and equipped with the knowledge to get the individual the care they need.
Other great models which exist as resources in some communities include Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs, Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, EmPATH emergency room setups, the Living Room model, The Lifeline and 988.
The Living Room model and EmPATH are a couple of examples of where you can take someone who is having a mental health crisis instead of bringing them to a typical hospital emergency room where they will be unlikely to receive care oriented towards those with mental health issues. In fact, a typical ER setting often exacerbates mental health situations. SMI Adviser, A Clinical Support System for Serious Mental Illness, explains that the “Living Rooms embrace the Recovery Model and offer people experiencing mental health crises a calm and safe environment. The community outpatient centers are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and people receive care immediately.”
"988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline)," active across the United States. If and when someone in crisis calls, texts, or chats 988, they will connect with a trained counselor who is a part of the existing Lifeline network. The counselor will listen, understand how their problems affect them, provide support, and connect them to necessary resources.
(NOTE: The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.)
Above, I mention some suggested steps and approaches when dealing with someone in a mental health crisis. Below you can find a few more:
I hope you found this information and the suggested practices helpful on “How To Support People Who Are In a Mental Health Crisis.” It is critical to know that you are not alone, and consulting with a professional like myself or through the resources I have provided will hopefully give you the support and direction you need.
Disclaimer: The contents of HealthACR Insights are intended to provide information we hope you find interesting, timely and useful. We carefully research the topics using reliable, highly regarded sources. Citations are provided. We in no way intend to offer clinical advice that you should use to make treatment decisions. Please consult appropriate professionals. HealthACR, LLC is available to help you identify potential options and find providers to meet your needs.