10 Minutes

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Affecting tens of millions of individuals each given year, mental health disorders are highly prevalent in the United States. Despite the high occurrence rate, only a fraction of these people successfully receives the treatment they need. Without adequate support and management, such mental health disorders can easily reach an emotional crisis point which can quickly exacerbate and trigger life-threatening symptoms. Some common examples of these emotional crises include self-injury, suicidal thoughts, alcohol or drug abuse, depression, or eating disorders. If you or someone you know has been going through an emotional crisis, remember that your help can make a difference.

A mental health or emotional crisis refers to any situation in which an individual’s behavior puts them at a very high risk of hurting themselves or those around them. Such a situation may also hinder the primary victim from being able to care for themselves or effectively function in the community. Several factors can trigger an emotional health crisis, such as the following:

Environmental Stressors

  • A change in relationship with others, such as a partner, spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend
  • Relocation or estrangement
  • A loss of any kind, such as bereavement
  • Conflicts with a friend or family member
  • Exposure to trauma or violence at work or school
  • Worrying about an upcoming task or project
  • A lack of understanding from teachers, co-workers, supervisors, or peers
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Failing grades
  • Loss of a job
  • Real or perceived discrimination

Other Stressors

  • Experiencing trauma, community violence, terrorism, or natural disasters
  • Being in large crowds
  • Starting a new treatment or medication
  • Failure of an existing treatment to improve health outcomes
  • Stopping the medication or missing its doses

Spotting the signs of a crisis mental health is the crucial factor in controlling it and timely managing its symptoms before any significant damage occurs. An abrupt change in behavior remains one of the most common signs of an emotional crisis. Some examples of this include:

  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Weight loss or weight loss
  • A dramatic change in sleeping habits, such as the inability to sleep well or sleeping too often
  • Pronounced changes in mood, for example, anxiety, sadness, anger, or irritability.
  • Decline in performance at school or work
  • Withdrawal from everyday activities
  • Social withdrawal

In many instances, these changes happen suddenly and in a very obvious way. Certain events, such as a loss of a job or a natural disaster, can quickly bring on an emotional crisis in a relatively shorter period. In other circumstances, the behavioral change likely comes across slowly.

If you have noticed some difference in your or your loved one’s daily activities and behavior for weeks or months, do not wait for things to get worse. It is always a good idea to intervene early before the underlying emotional stress becomes an emergency.

When an emotional crisis hits someone, their family and friends are often caught off-guard, unsure, and unprepared. The behavior of an individual undergoing a crisis can be highly unpredictable and may dramatically change without prior warning. If you are worried about a loved one who is in crisis or nearing one, the following tips may help:

Be a Good Listener

Extend your help in an emotional crisis by simply lending an ear to the affected individual. Be supportive and listen to the person’s fears, anxiety, thoughts, and grief with full attention. Focus on offering encouragement and support without providing simplistic solutions, as they may come off as patronizing or judgmental. Allow the individual to express what they are feeling and remind them that you are there for them.

Assist With Practical Needs

The provision of instrumental support is critical during an emotional crisis. Helping such people with daily tasks, such as grocery shopping, cooking, housework, or other errands, can take the burden off of them and allow them to focus more on emotional crisis management.

Suggest Temporary Relaxation Exercises

If you find your friend on the verge of breaking down, ask them to follow one of the following four ways to bring themselves down from the emotional ledge:

  • Hold an ice cube or splash water on the face to change the body temperature and cool down emotionally and physically
  • Engage in intense exercise to match the intensity of emotions. Exhaustion can also make it hard to stay upset for a long time
  • Try paired muscle relaxation by tightening any voluntary muscle followed by relaxing it. This technique will relax the muscle more than it was before tightening it
  • Engage in paced breathing to reduce the fight or flight response in the body

The four tips mentioned above will enable a person under an emotional crisis to make constructive choices and manage their pooling emotions more safely and productively.

Encourage Professional Support

If your loved one has been struggling for a long time with no chance of recovery, encourage them to seek professional help. You may offer help in different ways, such as by helping them find a therapist or delivering them to drive to the airport.

Depending on the urgency, emotional crisis management treatment can be of two types.

Urgent Treatment

The Mental Health Crisis Intervention Team is available at multiple rehabilitation centers and supports people experiencing an emotional crisis. The primary aim of this team is to manage individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others but do not require any immediate medical assistance. Such teams are typically available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for patients and carers to ring for advice and support.

Long-Term Management

Following urgent mental health crisis intervention, individuals are typically referred for long-term management of their underlying condition. This type of management is available in rehabilitation centers which center around the following elements:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is the mainstay of their treatment. Psychotherapy may take place in individual therapy, where a client directly talks to a mental health professional, or group sessions, where a handful of people with similar issues discuss their problems and offer advice under expert supervision. Some examples of psychotherapy include dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation involves educating and teaching individuals more about their mental health conditions and the possible ways to keep them under control.
  • Self-Help and Peer Support Groups: These groups target and support people with emotional crises and are usually led by people with personal experience. The majority of people find these groups comforting as it helps them understand that they are not alone in their struggles.
  • Peer Recovery Education: Peer recovery education includes teaching structured instructions to patients by people who have lived through emotional crises themselves. These educational sessions may be one-time or include a series of lectures.
  • Peer-Run Services: These services include mental health programs where the staff utilizes the skills, information, and resources they gained during their recovery journey to help others. These services run on the principles of choice, recovery, mutual help, and empowerment. The goal is to establish a supportive place where people can find peers who truly understand them and offer them a chance to learn recovery skills.

The following types of professionals can help people manage their emotional crises:


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in caring for people with mental health illnesses. These experts are typically in charge of their care plan.


Psychologists are responsible for conducting individual, group, and family sessions along with administering diagnostic tests.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Psychiatric nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat mental health conditions through medication and general care.

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants help doctors in managing patients safely but cannot prescribe medications.

Registered Nurses

These nurses assess the patient’s progress while providing emotional support, health education, and encouragement. Registered. Nurses also administer medications and monitor the overall patient’s health.


The primary responsibility of a therapist is to conduct therapy in individual, group, or family settings. These therapists may be psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, or marriage and family therapists.

Social Workers

Social workers aim to identify the therapeutic and social needs of a person in an emotional crisis and help them connect with community sources through appropriate referrals. They work directly with patients and community providers and explain the plans for any ongoing treatment if needed.

Case Managers

Case managers help clients apply for resources, such as Medicaid and social security benefits. They are well aware of the housing options in their locality and know how to. Get rental assistance or housing vouchers for patients who require it. Moreover, case managers are also knowledgeable about community groups and programs, job training, and employment hunting.

Patient Advocates

Patient advocates support families in resolving or addressing issues regarding appropriateness, quality, and coordination of care for patients.



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