What to Do In a CrisisSearch for Help
When someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or showing signs of suicidal behavior, remember three things: Take it seriously, ask questions, and get help.
Take it Seriously
Thoughts of death or suicide are a serious symptom of depression, so take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. Stay calm and be willing to listen without judgment or criticism. Allow and encourage the expression of feelings. Let the person know that suicidal thoughts are temporary and depression is a treatable condition.
Remind the person that no matter how awful his problems seem, they can be worked out and you are willing to help. Don't try to argue a person out of suicide, and don’t be sworn to secrecy. Offer hope that alternatives are available.
You might open a dialogue by saying, “I notice you don’t seem like yourself lately. What’s been going on?” Listen more than you talk. Ask simple questions. Say, “I’m here. I care. How can I help you?”
Asking about suicide—and encouraging the person to get help—does not increase the risk of suicide. Ask questions about how the person is feeling and how you can help. Be direct. Ask whether the person is considering suicide. Ask if he has a particular plan or method in mind. Talking openly about it is the first step toward help. It may be a relief to the person to know that it’s all right to talk about it.
If you think a person is suicidal or you discover plans for self-harm, treat it as an emergency. Crisis intervention specialists can help people cope with stress and trauma and offer short-term intervention and stabilization of the crisis situation.
If you fear the person is in danger of harming himself or others, seek help immediately.
- Take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room (ER), where medical staff can help you deal with the crisis and keep the person safe.
Following an assessment by a clinical professional—usually a psychiatrist—the ER determines care options. Often the patient is held for 48 to 72 hours for further evaluation.
Hospital admissions through the ER may be voluntary or involuntary. If the patient is a potential danger to himself or others, a hospitalization will be arranged.
- If you can’t take the person to the emergency room, dial 911, call your local mobile crisis team, or contact a crisis line. See Who to Call for more information.
- Don’t leave suicidal individuals alone until help is available. If there’s a chance they will hurt themselves or others, eliminate access to firearms, pills, sharp objects, ropes or other items they can use to harm themselves.
The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, mental health providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.