Experiencing mental illness yourself or learning that someone you love has a mental health disorder can be heartbreaking and frightening. People experiencing episodes of mental illness, as well as those who care for them, require appropriate, accurate, and helpful information. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always accessible, and the search for helpful answers may take more time and energy than we have in times of crisis. To better help those who are impacted by anxiety, depression, and more, our Florida mental health rehab is sharing a guide on crisis intervention techniques for mental health.
What Is a Mental Health Crisis?
By definition, a crisis is a short-term, overwhelming disruption to a person’s normal and day-to-day state where usual coping methods and problem-solving skills don’t work. A mental health crisis is any situation in which a person’s behavior puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others and/or inhibits them from caring for themselves or functioning effectively and safely in society.
Many things can lead to a mental health crisis, and some of the most common mental health crisis triggers include:
- Break-ups or divorce
- Death of a loved one, estrangement, or relocation
- Conflicts or arguments with loved ones
- Any kind of trauma, such as violence, near-death experiences, natural disasters, terrorism, and abuse
- Intense feelings of worry or stress about upcoming projects or deadlines
- Feeling singled out by coworkers, teachers, supervisors, or peers
- Real or perceived discrimination
- Failing in school
- Being in crowds or large groups of people
- Experiencing community violence
- Pending court dates
- Substance abuse
- Starting new medications or changing doses of current medications
- Mental health treatments stop working
- Stoping, reducing, or missing medication doses
Common Signs of a Mental Health Crisis
It’s crucial to know that warning signs aren’t always present when a mental health crisis is developing. Common mental health crisis examples or signs to look out for include:
- Inability to perform daily tasks like maintaining hygiene or changing their clothes
- Rapid mood swings
- Increased energy level and inability to stay still
- Suddenly depressed and withdrawn
- Suddenly happy or calm after a period of depression
- Increased agitation and verbal threats
- Violent and out-of-control behavior
- Destroys property or breaks their own things
- Abusive behavior to self and others, including drug and alcohol abuse or self-harm
- Isolation from school, work, family, or friends
- Loses touch with reality (psychosis) - unable to recognize family or friends, confusion, strange ideas, failure to understand what others are saying, hears voices, hallucinations
These signs of mental health crisis don’t present themselves all at once and may vary from person to person. The triggers or contributing factors to a mental health crisis above may not all occur and do not always result in mental illness.
Because everyone is different, it’s important to be aware of how long the changes in the individual’s personality or daily functioning have been occurring. This level of detail can be important for mental health care professionals to know.
Suicide and Mental Health Crisis
The risk of suicide is a major concern among people with mental health disorders and their loved ones. Encouraging someone to get help is the first step toward safety.
However, it’s important to understand what the warning signs of suicide are to ensure the individual gets the help they need as soon as possible. Additionally, any mention of suicide should be taken seriously. While most people who attempt suicide have given others some warning, this isn’t always the case.
Below are some common warning signs of suicide to look out for:
- Giving away their personal possessions
- Talking as if they’re saying goodbye or going away forever
- Taking steps to tie up loose ends, like paying off personal debts or signing away property to others
- Making or changing their will
- Stockpiling pills or buying a weapon
- Exhibiting a preoccupation with death
- Displaying sudden cheerfulness or calm after a period of sadness or hopelessness
- Saying things like “Nothing matters anymore,” “You’ll be better off without me,” or “Life isn’t worth living”
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves from friends, family, and normal activities
- Experiencing a sense of utter hopelessness and helplessness
- Dramatic changes in personality, mood, and/or behavior
- Increased substance abuse
- They have repeatedly failed romantic relationships
- They have a history of suicide attempts or other self-harming behaviors
- They have a family history of suicide or attempts
If you notice any of these signs in a loved one, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. Open up the conversation about getting anxiety or depression treatment.
Mental Health Crisis Intervention Techniques: What to Do
When a mental health crisis occurs, the person’s friends and family are often caught off guard. As a result, they may be unprepared and have no idea how to help their loved one. On top of this, the behavior of someone who’s going through a mental health crisis can be unpredictable and sometimes even dangerous.
For these reasons, it’s important to have a crisis intervention plan for mental health devised if you or a loved one has a mental illness. Below are some effective mental health crisis intervention techniques to use:
- Determine whether the person is in danger of hurting themselves, others, or property
- Ask them if they need emergency assistance
- Determine whether you have time to call a mental health professional for guidance
- Keep your voice calm
- Do not overreact
- Listen to the person
- Express your support and concern
- Avoid making continuous eye contact as this can make them nervous
- Ask how you can help
- Keep the stimulation level low (turn off your cell phone ringer, any music or TVs, etc.)
- Move slowly
- Offer them options instead of trying to take control of the situation
- Avoid touching the person unless you ask their permission
- Be patient with them
- Gently announce your actions before doing anything
- Give the person space to avoid making them feel trapped or cornered
- Don’t make judgmental comments
- Don’t argue or try to reason with them
If you can’t deescalate the situation and it becomes life-threatening or dangerous, call 911 and ask for immediate assistance. When you call 911, tell them that someone is experiencing a mental health crisis and explain the situation, your relationship with the person, and whether weapons are involved.
You can also ask them to send over a Crisis Intervention Training officer (CIT) to help with the situation. When providing information about the individual during a mental health crisis, be specific about their behaviors and any changes you’ve noticed. For instance, instead of saying, “My brother is acting strangely,” you might say, “My brother hasn’t slept in three days, hasn’t eaten anything in five days, and he believes that someone is talking to him through his TV.”
Remember that once first responders arrive on the scene, you are no longer in control. While you may encourage them to view the situation as a mental health crisis, it’s important to be clear about what you want to happen without disrespecting their authority.
Law enforcement can and will take a person into custody if they perceive that the individual is a threat to themselves or those around them. If you disagree with the officers, do not argue. Once they leave, call a friend, mental health professional, or recovery advocate for support and more information.
How to Start Mental Health Treatment Today
Mental health crisis interventions can be alarming, heartbreaking, and terrifying. Fortunately, there is an immense amount of crisis intervention methods you can use as well as support and resources available at our Boca behavioral health center.
Our facility offers residential mental health care for anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and more. Our specialists work daily with clients to help them navigate their symptoms, understand the root of their disorder, and help them develop healthy and effective coping strategies.
Our goal is not only to help clients achieve stability but also to supply them with the tools and skills they need to sustain a happy and fulfilling lifestyle. Let us help you.