Mental Health Crisis Plan (2023)

Preparing for a mental health emergency can make a world of difference when you’re facing a crisis.

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The day after I had a mental health crisis, I found all the sharp objects removed from the house. I felt hungover, wrecked — and very much eager to never go through that again.

I didn’t go to an emergency room, but not because I shouldn’t have. It was because I didn’t know what to do.

The next day, I met with my therapist and my partner. My therapist listed numbers to call and resources I could use for next time. Next time? I almost panicked at the very idea.

But the truth is — like millions of people worldwide — I live with mental health conditions. And without a crisis plan, I wouldn’t feel as safe or confident that I would know what to do if there is a next time.

Are you currently in crisis?

If you feel you’re having a mental health emergency, now isn’t the time to create a plan. If you need to speak with someone immediately, you can:

If you decide to call an emergency number like 911, ask the operator to send someone trained in mental health, like Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) officers.

A mental health crisis plan is a plan of action that’s made before a crisis occurs, so you and people in your support system know what to do when an emergency comes up.

Anyone can create a crisis plan by putting together a list of resources, information, and directions. This can make a big difference since decision making and logical thinking can go out the window when you’re under extreme stress.

The point of a crisis plan is to prepare for a mental health emergency.

You can create your crisis plan on your own, but you can also reach out to a mental health professional or any loved ones who might be involved in your support to help.

Your crisis plan can be for only you, or you can share it with your treatment team and loved ones. There are also legal documents you may find necessary for severe conditions.

Types of crisis plans:

Joint crisis plan

According to research in 2021, a joint crisis plan (JCP) is a “psychiatric advance statement that describes how to recognize early signs of crisis and how to manage crises.”

The three important things to include in a joint crisis plan are:

  • crisis triggers — what might cause a crisis
  • crisis manifestations — what your symptoms and behaviors are during a mental health crisis
  • strategies to deal with the crisis

Psychiatric advance directives (PADs)

PADs are legal documents that allow someone to act on your behalf. Typically, you’ll write a PAD when you’re not in crisis, detailing everything you want for your treatment if you become unable to make these choices.

If you have a severe mental health condition or symptoms (like psychosis), you may want to create a PAD.

Want to learn more?

Wellness recovery action plan

This plan helps you and your support team create a plan for your overall mental healthcare — in and out of crisis — and how to avoid future emergencies.

This plan may involve:

(Video) Develop a Safety Plan

  • a list of wellness tools
  • a daily routine
  • your stressors
  • early warning signs of a crisis or your symptoms worsening
  • a crisis plan
  • a post-crisis plan

If you want a full outline, you can learn more here.

(Video) How to Use My Mental Health Crisis Plan

When drafting a crisis plan, you may want to take past emergencies into consideration. What happened? What support do you wish you had? What do you wish you knew then?

Your crisis plan — and whom you share it with — will be unique to you and your condition.

I’ve learned from my past crises that:

  • I need to have numbers programmed in my phone at my fingertips
  • my partner needs to know the plan
  • if I show any signs of serious self-harm, a trip to the emergency room can provide immediate help

To create your crisis plan, we broke it into two pieces: medical information and the actual plan during a crisis.

Medical information

While you may not need this information in a crisis, having this information can help anyone (like an ER doctor) who isn’t familiar with your health history.

Consider the outline below:

  • Basic medical information
    • emergency contacts
    • names of your primary care doctor and mental health pros like a therapist and psychiatrist
    • anything else that might be helpful, like insurance information
  • Medical history
    • any allergies or reactions to medications
    • any history of severe side effects to psychiatric medications
    • past conditions, illnesses, or medical procedures
    • past psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Current medical information
    • current diagnoses
    • current medications including the date prescribed, your prescriber, and the dosage
    • to prevent interactions, anything else you’re taking (supplements or recreational drugs)

Crisis plan

For your crisis plan, consider including:

  • emergency resources (hotline numbers, your local mental health department or psychiatric care center, etc.)
  • steps to follow if you need to seek help from professionals
  • behaviors that mean you’ll go to a hospital
  • behaviors that mean you’ll call 911

When creating your crisis plan, you don’t need to do it alone. A mental health professional may be able to help you find the best emergency resource numbers and figure out which behaviors to add to your list.

Pro tip:

For my emergency resource, I put the main number as *Crisis*, so it’s the first contact in my phone book.

Be sure to have a few copies of your plan (and share them with your support team!), and update the medical information whenever your meds change.

(Video) What is a Mental Health Crisis?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides helpful printouts in their resource guide — Navigating a Mental Health Crisis — that can be added to a mental health crisis plan.

Mental health crisis warning signs

While your crisis and symptoms will vary, here are some common behaviors and symptoms that could indicate a crisis:

  • rapid, sudden, and intense changes in mood
  • an inability to function in most daily tasks
  • signs of psychosis such as hallucinations or delusions
  • paranoia
  • an increase in agitation, anger, or any violence
  • increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • suicidal ideation such as thoughts or feelings about suicide
  • signs of self-injury

Crisis resources

Having a local resource for your crisis plan is helpful, but there are also several national resources for support:

If you’re outside the United States, you can find a crisis hotline through Befrienders Worldwide or Suicide Stop: International Help Center.

A note on calling 911

It’s completely OK if you don’t feel safe or comfortable calling 911 or an emergency number for a mental health emergency. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental health conditions are 16 times more likely to be fatally harmed by law enforcement.

Because of this, you may want to consider calling 911 only if there’s an immediate danger to you or someone else or if you know your county has a crisis intervention team.

Depending on where you live, there may not be professionals trained in handling mental health concerns. But if you do call, be sure to tell the operator that it’s a mental health crisis, so officers can know to come with de-escalation in mind.

Why do you need a crisis plan?

(Video) Crisis Planning-Children’s Mental Health Agency

Crisis plans are there as an act of prevention — it’s a lot easier to have information and directions written out before you need it, rather than relying on reacting at the moment.

I like to think about it like any other type of emergency preparedness plan. People have emergency packs for earthquakes, fires, and tornados so they don’t have to rush around, can act fast, and be safe as soon as possible.

Your mental health emergency deserves the same kind of prep. You deserve safety and peace of mind.

Crisis plans can also be helpful for:

  • reducing forced or involuntary hospital admissions
  • preparing your loved ones and support team to know how to best help you
  • learning what works and what doesn’t
  • making recovery more streamlined
  • comfort in the knowledge that you’ll be ready in a mental health emergency

I wish I’d been given the resources to create a crisis plan before I knew what a crisis looked like.

A mental health crisis plan is my safety net. It’s the difference between an unknown, out-of-control situation and knowing that I’ve done what I can to prevent worse outcomes and get to safety.

You can’t always control or prevent a crisis entirely — mental health emergencies can occur even when you’re following your treatment plans and doing your best. But you can still be prepared.

With the right tools, we can seek help sooner and take care of ourselves now for moments when we may not be able to. Remember, you’re not alone. You deserve support.

If you’re not in a crisis but don’t currently have a mental health team, Psych Central has some resources that can get you started:

  • What to do if you can’t afford therapy
  • 10 tips to find the right therapist
  • The best online therapy programs
  • The best free online therapy and support services
  • The best online psychiatry services


Mental Health Crisis Plan? ›

A mental health crisis plan is a plan of action that's made before a crisis occurs, so you and people in your support system know what to do when an emergency comes up. Anyone can create a crisis plan by putting together a list of resources, information, and directions.

What should be included in a crisis plan? ›

Effective crisis response plans include the following ten elements:
  • A representative set of planning scenarios. ...
  • A flexible set of response modules. ...
  • A plan that matches response modules to scenarios. ...
  • A designated chain of command. ...
  • Preset activation protocols. ...
  • A command post and backup. ...
  • Clear communication channels.
Sep 30, 2002

What is a crisis intervention plan? ›

A positive behavior intervention plan is proactive or preventative in responding to your child's behavior. A crisis plan is an action plan developed for how to respond to support a child at specific times when he or she may be at risk of harm to self or others related to mental health or behavioral health needs.

What are the five 5 areas of crisis management? ›

Prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery are the five steps of Emergency Management.

What are the 3 elements of a crisis? ›

Three basic elements of a crisis are: A stressful situation, difficulty in coping, and the timing of intervention. Each crisis situation is unique and will require a flexible approach to the client and situation.

What are the 6 phases of a crisis? ›

Evolution of a Crisis

According to Robert C. Chandler, Ph. D., internationally renowned crisis communication expert, a crisis has six stages: 1) warning, 2) risk assessment, 3) response, 4) management, 5) resolution, and 6) recovery.

How do you manage a mental health crisis? ›

Avoiding a Crisis
  1. Talk with Your Doctor. The first thing to do if you feel your health worsening is to call your mental health professionals and explain the situation. ...
  2. Reach Out to Others. ...
  3. Take Care of Yourself.

What does a mental health crisis look like? ›

Signs of a Mental Health Crisis

Unable to complete daily tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth, bathing, etc. Verbally saying, writing or insinuating that they'd like to kill themselves and/or talking about death. Withdrawing from friends, family and their typical social situations.

What are the 5 types of crisis? ›

Lists out seven types of crisis: natural disasters; technological disasters; crises of confrontation; acts of malevolence; misplaced management values; acts of deception; and management misconduct.

What are the four 4 goals of crisis intervention? ›

A helper's primary goals in a crisis are to identify, assess, and intervene; to return the indi- vidual to his/her prior level of functioning as quickly as possible; and to lessen any negative impact on future men- tal health.

What triggers a mental health crisis? ›

What causes a mental health crisis? Many things can lead to a mental health crisis. Increased stress, physical illness, problems at work or at school, changes in family situations, trauma/violence in the community or substance use may trigger an increase in behaviors or symptoms that lead to a crisis.

What are the seven stages of crisis intervention? ›

Robert's Seven Stage Crisis Intervention Model

Plan and Conduct Crisis and Biopsychosocial Assessment (Including lethality Measures) Establish Rapport and Rapidly Establish the Relationship. Identify Dimensions of presenting problems. Explore feelings and emotions (Including active listening and validation)

What is an example of crisis management? ›

Risk management involves planning for events that might occur in the future, crisis management involves reacting to negative events during and after they have occurred. An oil company, for example, may have a plan in place to deal with the possibility of an oil spill.

What are the 4 types of crisis? ›

Types of Crisis
  • Natural Crisis. Disturbances in the environment and nature lead to natural crisis. ...
  • Technological Crisis. ...
  • Confrontation Crisis. ...
  • Crisis of Malevolence. ...
  • Crisis of Organizational Misdeeds. ...
  • Crisis due to Workplace Violence. ...
  • Crisis Due to Rumours. ...
  • Bankruptcy.

What is the six step model for crisis intervention? ›

Gilliland's Six-Step Model, which includes three listening and three action steps, is a useful crisis intervention model. Attending, observing, understanding, and responding with empathy, genuineness, respect, accep- tance, nonjudgment, and caring are important elements of listening.

What is successful crisis management? ›

Effective crisis management occurs when an organization employs skillful planning and a proactive response to avert a crisis entirely, limit its severity and duration, or turn it into an opportunity. These examples feature organizations that responded with transparency and agility.

What are the five stages of crisis counseling? ›

This is a challenging and, in many ways, frightening time.
Crisis Intervention Strategies
  • Step One – Define the Problem. ...
  • Step Two – Ensure Safety. ...
  • Step Three – Provide Support. ...
  • Step Four – Examine Alternatives. ...
  • Step Five – Make a Plan.
Mar 26, 2020

What is crisis life cycle? ›

According to Coombs, a crisis lifecycle has three stages: precrisis, crisis event and postcrisis. With this lifecycle-view in mind, emergency managers could encompass asynchronous management of the incubation periods, the physical manifestations of the emergency, the restoration periods and beyond.

What is the first stage of crisis? ›

There are six stages within every crisis: (1) warning; (2) risk assessment; (3) response; (4) management; (5) resolution and (6) recovery. This is the fifth of six topic briefings to explore a specific crisis stage, identify the specific issues of that stage and provide manageable solutions.

How do you help someone in a crisis? ›

If the situation escalates to a crisis, do your best to remain calm. Here are some techniques that may help you to de-escalate the crisis:
  1. Keep your voice calm and talk slowly.
  2. Listen to the person.
  3. Express support and concern. ...
  4. Ask how you can help.
  5. Ask if they are thinking about suicide.

How do you know if you're in a crisis? ›

Changes in completion of daily tasks. Withdrawing from typically attended social situations. Changes in diet, not eating or eating all the time. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia.

What defines a mental breakdown? ›

Instead, a mental health crisis or a breakdown of your mental health is a situation that happens when you have intense physical and emotional stress, have difficulty coping and aren't able to function effectively. It's the feeling of being physically, mentally and emotionally overwhelmed by the stress of life.

What is an emotional crisis? ›

Emotional crisis (mental crisis) is a natural element of life and can be described as “temporary, periodic disturbance of mental balance caused by a threat associated with the meaning of life, important values, in confrontation with important life problems.

How long does a crisis last? ›

The Duration of a Nervous Breakdown Varies by Individual

These mental health crises are highly variable, lasting a few hours for one person or weeks for another. There are many risk factors for having a nervous breakdown, and the more an individual has, the greater the chance is that a breakdown will last longer.

What are crisis examples? ›

Family crises, natural disasters, suicide, sudden financial disruption, community-driven events, and impactful life events are some of the most common crisis examples and types that enforcement professionals must respond to.

What is the most basic goal of crisis intervention? ›

It aims to: Reduce the intensity of an individual's emotional, mental, physical and behavioral reactions to a crisis. Help individuals return to their level of functioning before the crisis.

What do you do when a client is in crisis? ›

How to Handle a Client Crisis
  1. Respond rapidly. If a client is unhappy, deal with it immediately. ...
  2. Listen without being defensive. ...
  3. Say you're sorry. ...
  4. Collaborate on the solution. ...
  5. Offer amends. ...
  6. Avoid excuses. ...
  7. Rebuild trust through small, frequent, confidence-building measures. ...
  8. Get things out into the open.

What are the two main goals of crisis intervention? ›

The first goal of TCI is to reduce the stress and pain of the situation and the second goal is to teach the student constructive coping skills that are used to replace the negative or unwanted behaviors and responses to stressful situations and negative emotions.

What are the 3 levels of depression? ›

Depression can be described as mild, moderate or severe; melancholic or psychotic (see below).

Who to call if someone is having a mental breakdown? ›

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat . Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

What do you say to someone having a mental health crisis? ›

What to say to someone with a mental illness
  • "Do you want to talk about it? ...
  • "What can I do to help?" ...
  • "That sounds really difficult. ...
  • 4. " ...
  • "I'm really sorry you're going through this. ...
  • "Are you looking for my perspective or would you rather I listen?" ...
  • "I know what you mean. ...
  • "Have you tried yoga or meditation?"
Nov 14, 2019

What is a crisis model? ›

A crisis management model is the conceptual framework for all aspects of preparing for, preventing, coping with, and recovering from a crisis. By viewing events through a model, crisis managers gain context and can better apply best practices.

What is a crisis assessment? ›

Assessment of a Crisis Situation

A crisis assessment takes the form of an interview, which allows a counselor to become familiar with a patient's history of past crises, frequency of them, and how they have affected the individual's emotional or mental state.

What are the main principles of crisis management? ›

Four principles of crisis communication
  • Principle 1: start with your values. If you're ever unsure of how to approach a crisis, the place to start is with your values. ...
  • Principle 2: tell the truth, and tell it often. ...
  • Principle 3: act first, communicate second. ...
  • Principle 4: communicate with empathy.
Mar 6, 2021

What are the types of crisis management? ›

Crisis of organizational misdeeds can be further classified into following three types:
  • Crisis of Skewed Management Values. Crisis of Skewed Management Values arises when management supports short term growth and ignores broader issues.
  • Crisis of Deception. ...
  • Crisis of Management Misconduct.

What are the three phases of crisis management? ›

Crisis management can be divided into three phases: (1) pre-crisis, (2) crisis response, and (3) post-crisis. The pre-crisis phase is concerned with prevention and preparation. The crisis response phase is when management must actually respond to a crisis.

Who's 6 principles approach for dealing with this crisis? ›

You can help your organization and your community prepare for, respond to, and recover from an emergency by using CERC's six main principles:2 be first, be right, be credible, express empathy, promote action, and show respect.

What is crisis management communication? ›

Crisis communication can be defined broadly as the collection, processing, and dissemination of information required to address a crisis situation. It is the “dialog between the organization and its public(s) prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence.

What is the principle to adopt for successful crisis management? ›

Slash fears by building trust

Leaders must address these employee concerns by building an environment of trust, using empathy, and injecting hope and positivity. They must strive to be transparent by communicating the plan of action with customers, partners, and employees.

What is an example of crisis management? ›

Risk management involves planning for events that might occur in the future, crisis management involves reacting to negative events during and after they have occurred. An oil company, for example, may have a plan in place to deal with the possibility of an oil spill.

What are the three objectives of a crisis management plan? ›

Objective of Crisis Management

Reduce tension during the incident. Demonstrate corporate commitment and expertise. Control the flow and accuracy of the information.

What are the different types of crisis in mental health? ›

Some examples of mental health crises include depression, trauma, eating disorders, alcohol or substance abuse, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. If you suspect a friend or family member is experiencing an emotional crisis, your help can make a difference.

What is the major initial task in crisis intervention? ›

The first step in crisis intervention process is to determine exactly what the problem is. This part of the process helps establish a connection between yourself and the client. The active listening process is important here: open-ended questions and the core factors of empathy, genuineness and positive regard.


1. Sydney Health Hacks: How to create a mental health safety plan
(Sydney Health)
2. Psychiatric Crisis: Plan to Take Care of Your Life
(HealthyPlace Mental Health)
3. A Mental Health Crisis Plan for My Bipolar Child Saved Her
(HealthyPlace Mental Health)
4. How to help children going through a mental health crisis
(CBS Mornings)
5. Mental Health Education Series: Crisis Intervention
(InHealth: A Washington Hospital Channel)
6. There's a Mental Health Crisis Among Florida's Kids
(VICE News)
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