A mental health crisis often means that that someone no longer feels able to cope or be in control of their situation. They may feel great emotional distress or anxiety, and cannott cope with day-to-day life or work. Their thoughts may include suicide or self-harm, or they may experience hallucinations or hear voices. A crisis can also be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as confusion or delusions caused by an infection, overdose, illicit drugs or intoxication with alcohol.
Whether someone is experiencing a sudden deterioration of an existing mental health problem, or are experiencing problems for the first time, you’ll need immediate expert assessment to identify the best cause of action and stop the situation getting worse.
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The first thing to assess in an emergency is whether you’re safe. If you think you’re experiencing a mental health crisis it’s time to get help, either from support you have in place already, or by calling 999.
If you’re supporting someone experiencing a mental health crisis and feel unsafe, remove yourself from the situation and contact security (if on campus) or the emergency services (if elsewhere or out of hours).
If you or the person you’re helping already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, call it.
If you are under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.
You can call NHS 111 if you or someone you know requires urgent care, but it is not life-threatening. For example:
if you have an existing mental health problem and your symptoms get worse
if you experience a mental health problem for the first time
if someone has self-harmed but it does not appear to be life-threatening, or is talking about wanting to self-harm.
Alternatively, contact your GP practice and ask for an emergency appointment. Your practice should be able to offer you an appointment in a crisis with the first available doctor.
A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a medical emergency. Call 999 if you or someone you know experiences a mental health emergency.
You can go to A&E directly if you need immediate help and are worried about your safety.
Once at A&E the team will tend to your immediate physical and mental health needs. Many hospitals now have a liaison psychiatry team (or psychological medicine service) which is designed to bridge the gap between physical and mental healthcare.
St George’s has a team of staff trained as mental health first aiders who can help assess situations and get individuals the help they need. This includes staff specifically trained to support individuals who may be suicidal. Student Services also has strong links with local mental health services and can help with contacting crisis lines or helping ensure someone has a safe place to wait until help can arrive.
If you’re on campus, you can access mental health first aiders through the Student Life Centre or by contacting university security on 0909 and telling them you need a mental health first aider. Trained staff can also be accessed through the resident advisor team in Horton Halls.