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A Complete Guide on What to Do in a Mental Health Emergency

Mental health emergencies can led to permanent disability or even death. You need to act quick. This is what do in a mental health emergency.

Between 2006 and 2014, hospitals saw an increase of 44% in patients seeking help for a mental health emergency. That number is continuing to rise every year with no end in sight.

If you know someone who has a mental health disorder, chances are you may be with them in a time of crisis. Would you know how to handle it?

Helping Your Loved One in Crisis

Everything you do when faced with an emergency mental health crisis deals with "de-escalation." You are trying to calm her down and get her the help that she needs. If she has reached the point of crisis, she needs more help than you are able to give her.

  • Don't try to downplay the crisis
  • Don't overreact to the situation
  • Don't try to reason with the person having the mental health emergency
  • Move slowly and give him space
  • Avoid judgmental comments and direct eye contact
  • Offer choices rather than taking complete control
  • Keep your voice soft and even
  • Make sure the environment is quiet
  • Evaluate the Situation

How a mental health emergency turns out will depend on your ability to handle it from the beginning. Evaluate the situation to make sure you are comfortable and prepared to handle it. Never hesitate to call an emergency psychologist for guidance.

  • Is the person in a controlled situation?
  • Your loved one should be in a safe space without anything to distract him or set him "off."
  • Has the individual expressed any desire to hurt himself or someone else?
  • Make sure he has nothing around him he could use to hurt anyone. Keep an eye on him, but stay near a door in case his behavior escalates.
  • Do you feel confident in your ability to transport the person for an evaluation?

If you have any doubt at all, it's important to get help. Call the police or fire department for help transporting him safely for treatment. Give doctors a list of all the medications he is taking.

Special Considerations

An adult emergency mental health situation may not always be as it seems. It's possible that the person is suffering an underlying medical complication.

These are life-threatening emergencies. It is very important the person receives an evaluation by a qualified physician.

Here are a few common medical complications that mimic mental health emergencies.


Diabetic emergencies frequently appear to be mental health emergencies. A person with dangerously low blood sugar will be lethargic or hard to wake. They may not make sense when they try to talk, and they can act aggressively.

A person with dangerously high levels of glucose may be lethargic to the point of a coma.


Sepsis results in a high fever that causes confusion and lethargic behavior. Your loved one will have a change in his behavior that may seem like some type of mental health crisis.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse

Adults who have used some types of drugs may seem to be having a mental health crisis. These drugs can vary and include PCP, heroin, or methamphetamine.

Prescription medications can have adverse reactions as well.

  • Drugs taken for Parkinson's disease,
  • steroids
  • heart medicines
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines

Alcohol or drug withdrawal both appear as mental health emergencies. Tremors and agitation are common withdrawal symptoms.

Any drug interactions, withdrawals or overdoses are genuine medical emergencies. They require an evaluation by a qualified professional.


Depending on the location of the blockage in the brain, a stroke victim can have any number of symptoms. Some, like confusion or an inability to communicate, may seem to be a mental health emergency rather than a medical complication.

Organ Failure

Organ failure, such as kidney or liver, cause various psychiatric problems. When toxins aren't filtered from the blood, the poisons lead to confusion and lethargy.

The Pediatric Mental Health Emergency

Pediatric patients are at a high risk for mental health emergencies. Psychiatric emergencies account for between 2 to 5% of pediatric emergency room visits.

A pediatric mental health emergency is very distressing to his parents and caretakers. A child isn't as skilled at hiding a mental health emergency as most adults. His reactions may seem very extreme or sudden.

Determine if your child is a risk to himself or others: Don't beat around the bush. Ask him if he is considering hurting himself or someone else. His answer should be a strong and convincing "no."

If the child admits he has thought about it, ask him his plan. If he has a plan for hurting himself or others, he is at a higher risk of following through with it. If he has answered yes to this question, he needs an immediate evaluation and treatment.

Never leave the child alone if you suspect he is having a mental health emergency and wants to hurt himself. Remember that even a "cry for attention" may go too far and seriously harm your child.

Reassure your child that it's normal: Remind your child that it's normal to be upset and confused at times. Lots of kids his age think about suicide but never act on it. He's not alone.

Let your child know that you are with him: Tell your child that you are going to stay with him during the visit to the doctor.

Try to transport the child for treatment yourself: If the child is calm and you can handle the situation yourself, try not to involve anyone else. If he is aggressive, don't hesitate to call for help so everyone remains safe.

Why an Urgent Care Instead of an Emergency Room?

You want quick, compassionate help for your loved one during a mental health emergency. Urgent care centers give personalized care that large hospital emergency rooms can't.

Urgent care facilities offer quick services and much shorter wait times. These benefits mean that in most cases an urgent care facility makes more sense than a traditional ER.

Advance ER has qualified mental health specialists on duty every day. We are conveniently located in two locations serving the Dallas area. If you have any questions about psychiatric emergencies, contact us 24 hours a day.