Tips to Manage a Mental Health Crisis

(July 9, 2021)

What can you do to help someone else in crisis?

A crisis can be anything that we define as more than we can handle in that moment, requiring backup or additional help. A mental health crisis is an event or episode that causes someone to feel as though their mental health is out of control. It can involve self-harming behaviors, suicidal ideation, inability to control thoughts or actions, or even just an inability to get out of bed. These behaviors, particularly if they are new behaviors or feelings, can be terrifying to both the person experiencing it and the people close to that person, but these crises are not uncommon. Mental Health crisis can be scary and overwhelming, even for those of us who work in the mental health field.

What do you do when you are feeling like your mental health is out of control?  Read on for some helpful tips!

  1. Assess for immediate safety. Make sure they are sitting down somewhere that they can’t hurt themselves, either on purpose or accidentally. Sit with them and try not to leave them alone in the room if you can. If you need to, call someone else for additional support. 
  2.  Ask if they are having thoughts of harming or killing themselves. Asking someone if they are having suicidal thoughts will not cause these thoughts to happen and is an important step in getting someone the right help. If they answer yes, or you are at all concerned that they might be suicidal, call a crisis line or 911. A list of crisis resources is at the bottom of this post. 
  3. Try to avoid minimizing. Statements like “It’s not a big deal” or “I’m having a bad day, too” are often unhelpful and can make the person feel unheard. Instead, validate how they are feeling. Reinforce that it’s ok that they are feeling this way, and that you want to help them get the help they need.
  4. If you need to help someone else, try using TIPP. TIPP is a Dialectical Behavior skill for distress tolerance. (Greenwood,

T– Temperature. Change your body temperature. This can be done by dipping your face into cold water (warmer than 50 degrees) and holding your breath for 15-30 seconds. You can also hold an ice back or cold wash cloth to your forehead.

I– Intense Exercise. Engage in exercise for 20 minutes if possible. If you are with someone in crisis, try going for a brisk walk with them. If this is not possible, even doing a set of jumping jacks can make an impact.

P– Paced Breathing- gradually slow your breathing to 5 or 6 full breaths per minute. This is something you can also do with someone who is in crisis.

P– Paired muscle relaxation. Tense your muscles as you breathe in for 5 seconds, and then intentionally relax the muscle as you breathe out. Try doing this throughout your body. 

Helping someone through a mental health crisis can be stressful and scary.

 You may feel overwhelmed, anxious, or sad. Make sure you are not neglecting your own mental health needs when helping someone else through theirs and talk to someone if you need.

If you are feeling as though you are in crisis, either you are concerned that you are having thoughts of harming or killing yourself, or are feeling out of control emotionally, the most important thing you can do is to tell someone. This can be done over the phone or in person. If you don’t have a support person you can contact, call a crisis line. Having a therapist can help to develop long term ways of coping so that crises happen less frequently. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that you can use to help:

The National Suicide Hotline- 800-273-8255

The Crisis Text Line- Text HOME to 741 741

The Rosecrance Hotline (central Illinois specific) 217-359-4141

If you are looking for a therapist, give us a call today at 217-203-2008 or send us an email