Anyone can experience a mental health crisis. In a crisis, you may feel like you can’t carry on. You may be at risk of hurting yourself or trying to take your own life. It’s vital to get help immediately.
*Last updated: 20 July 2021
‘Crisis’ can describe many different situations. With mental health, it means a time when you need urgent help. You might be extremely anxious and having panic attacks. You could be self-harming or thinking of suicide. You may have felt this way before and know where to get help, or it could be the first time you’ve felt this way.
Crisis care can take many different forms – calling a helpline, going to A&E, making an emergency doctor’s appointment. Different things might work for you at different times.
The important thing to know is help is available. You won’t be wasting anyone’s time if you ask for support.
I need urgent help for my mental health
There are different types of crisis support available depending on what you need. You could:
- call 999 or go to your local A&E if you’ve tried to hurt yourself or think you might act on suicidal thoughts
- make an emergency appointment with your doctor or call 111 for advice if you’re not in immediate danger
- contact your local crisis team if you’re already being supported by a community mental health team
- call an NHS urgent mental health helpline for advice and support (England only)
- be admitted to hospital if you need intensive support, or if there’s a risk you could hurt yourself or someone else. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional to refer you if you think you need to go into hospital
- stay in a crisis house. They offer intensive short-term help as an alternative to going into hospital or following a hospital stay. Mind has more information about them
- tell someone you trust like a partner or friend if you’re not sure what to do, or need support to get help
- call a helpline to talk about your feelings with a trained listener.
Sometimes you might not be well enough to make decisions about your treatment. If your health or safety is at risk, or if other people might be harmed if you’re not given treatment, you may be detained under the Mental Health Act and taken to hospital. This is also called being ‘sectioned’. Mind has more information about what this means.
Planning for a crisis
If you’ve been in a crisis before or had suicidal thoughts, it can help to plan ahead. This way, you can know how to get help quickly and others can know the best ways to help you.
If you have suicidal thoughts, a safety plan can help you remember ways to cope and people to contact. In a crisis, follow the plan one step at a time until you feel safe again. You can download a safety plan here or use the Stay Alive app.
If there are times you can’t make or communicate decisions for yourself, you could create an advance statement. This lets people know how you’d like to be treated. It can help friends, family and medical professionals make decisions on your behalf.
You could also make a crisis card, a small document you can carry in your pocket or wallet explaining what to do and who to contact if you’re unable to communicate.
What is the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat?
The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat is an agreement between services and agencies who support and care for people in crisis. It sets out how they can work together better to make sure people get the help they need.
It focuses on four main areas:
- access to support before a crisis: making sure you can get help 24 hours a day and that you’re taken seriously
- urgent and emergency access to crisis care: so a mental health crisis is treated with the same urgency as a physical health emergency
- quality of treatment and care when in crisis: meaning you’re treated with dignity and respect
- recovery and staying well: preventing future crises by referring you to services that can help.
You can find out more and see who’s signed on the Crisis Care Concordat website.
Mind has practical tools you can use to help yourself in a crisis.
Samaritans offer confidential emotional support to anyone having a difficult time.
You can text Shout on 85258 for confidential support by text.
In Northern Ireland, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. They’re a crisis response helpline for anyone in distress or despair