Crisis care

A mental health crisis is an emergency that poses a direct and immediate threat to your physical or emotional wellbeing. There is no one set definition of what a crisis entails; it is highly personal to each individual case and can be escalated by service users, their carers, or family/friends according to what they consider normal/abnormal. 

What is crisis care?

  • Crisis care has to be person centred.
  • Tailored arounds the strengths and assets available individually or within the family unit.
  • As flexible as possible, aiming for minimal coercion where possible.
  • Service options made available that allow for assessment to ensure the immediate and short term support is tailored to the crisis at hand.
  • Actively seeks feedback from service users and their carers to see what works well, and what doesn’t.
  • Encourages self-management in the long-term.

Who provides crisis care?

NHS acute and mental health trusts.

NHS and independent ambulance providers.

Primary medical services (including GPs).

Where does crisis care take place?

Those who experience mental health crisis are most commonly treated in the following three ways, however the three are by no means mutually exclusive: 

  • When there is a very real and immediate threat to someone’s health, they are treated at  accident and emergency departments.
  • More often people require access and support from specialist mental health services.
  • A smaller number of people are detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and then taken  to a place of safety for treatment.

Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat

In February 2014, 22 national bodies from across health, policing, social care, housing, local government and the third sector signed the Crisis Care Concordat, with a further five since, making a total of 27 national signatories. It focuses on four main areas:

  • Access to support before crisis point.
  • Urgent and emergency access to crisis care.
  • Quality of treatment and care when in crisis.
  • Recovery and staying well.

Page last updated: May 2019

What support is available?

  • NHS 111: call 111 for non-emergency medical help and advice for people living in England.
  • NHS Direct: call 0845 46 47 for non-emergency medical help and advice for people living in Wales.
  • NHS 24: call 111 to reach Scotland's national telehealth and telecare organisation.
  • NI Direct: call 0808 808 8000 for a crisis response helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, open to people of all ages across Northern Ireland.