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Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis and How to Respond

A mental health crisis is a situation in which an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors put them in danger of harming themselves or others. A mental health crisis can happen to anyone, at any time, hindering their ability to make decisions and care for themself. Here are common warning signs and tips on what to do if you or a loved one needs help.

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Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis

Knowing and being able to recognize the warning signs of a mental health crisis helps you provide effective support. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), common warning signs are:

  • Inability to perform daily tasks, bathing, getting dressed, etc.
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Increased agitation, risk-taking/out-of-control behavior
  • Abusive behavior to self or someone else
  • Isolations from work, school, family, and friends
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Paranoia

What to Do in a Mental Health Crisis
First, assess the immediacy of the situation to help determine where to start.

  • Is the person in danger of hurting himself/herself, others, or property?
  • Do you have time to start with a phone call for guidance from a mental health professional?
  • Do you need emergency assistance?

Then, respond.

  • If the situation is life-threatening, call 911 and ask for immediate help.
  • If you don’t think there is immediate danger, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room or call your county mental health crisis unit (Bucks County at 1.800.499.7455 and Montgomery County at 855.634.4673), crisis response team, or other similar contacts.

St. Luke’s Penn Foundation has trained crisis workers available daily from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm to offer supportive problem-solving strategies. To speak with a professional, call 215.257.6551.