Navigating a Mental Health Crisis

It can be frightening when you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis. You may not know what to do.

A mental health crisis is when someone is experiencing symptoms that make them feel out of control or prevent them from being able to care for themselves. It can mean different things to different people. For example, thinking about suicide, hearing voices, or having unusual thoughts can be part of a mental health crisis for some people, but other people are able to well manage these experiences.

Below are some ideas for navigating a crisis that you or a loved one is experiencing.

If You Are Experiencing A Mental Health Crisis

Here are some ideas for managing your crisis.

If you have experienced a mental health crisis in the past, you may want to plan ahead in case a crisis happens again. Planning head helps ensure that your preferences are honored during the crisis, and can sometimes help interrupt things before they rise to the level of a crisis. There are resources at the end of this page for crisis planning.

Ask yourself what you need or need to do right now. Do you need the company of someone else, or would time alone be helpful? When is the last time you ate or slept? Sometimes we neglect basic needs when we are not doing well, and that can worsen what we are experiencing.

Also ask yourself what you do not need right or need to do right now. The focus is on you  -your number one priority right now is taking care of yourself.

You can try doing something that make you feel good and can distract you a little from what you’re experiencing. Try listening to music, watching a video, taking a walk, drawing, etc.

If you think that you can’t manage this alone, reach out to a friend, family member, or other supporter that you trust for support. Tell them you are not doing well and talking with them/spending time with them would be helpful to you.

If you do not have someone to reach out to – or think that talking with someone you don’t know about what you’re experiencing would be helpful – you could try a crisis call or text service. Their operators are trained to provide support, resources, and referrals. There is a list of crisis call or text service you can use at the end of this page.

If you are already getting care from a mental health provider, like a therapist, psychiatrist, or peer specialist, you may want to reach out to them for support. Many mental health practices offer urgent care for their patients, either with the patient’s provider or an on-call clinician.

If you you need to speak with a clinician urgently about what you are experiencing, you can call your local Emergency Services Program (ESP). ESP are staffed by mental health clinicians. They can talk to people who feel they are in or near crisis, and try to help them find the supports they need to manage the crisis. There is a list of ESPs in Massachusetts at the end of this page.

If you need to speak with someone urgently about what you are experiencing and other options are not available (or your crisis involves a medical emergency) you can go to your local hospital emergency room. Like Emergency Service Programs (ESPs), emergency room providers will assess what you are experiencing to determine next care steps. Know that the care options that can be offered in the emergency room are often more limited than what an ESP can offer.

Resources for Navigating a Mental Health Crisis

If you have experienced a mental health crisis in the past, you may want to plan ahead in case a crisis happens again. Planning head helps ensure that your preferences are honored during the crisis, and can sometimes help interrupt things before they rise to the level of a crisis.

List of Wellness and Crisis Planning Resources (pdf) – (Opens in a new window)

Need help finding tools and supports to include in your wellness or crisis plan? Reach out to the COMPASS Helpline! We provide resources and support to help people navigate the complex mental health systems, and help problem solve in difficult circumstances. The COMPASS helpline is available Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. Call us at 617-704-6264 or email us at compass@namimass.org.

Learn more about the NAMI Mass COMPASS Helpline

You can use a crisis call, text, or chat services if you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis. They can provide support, resources, and referrals.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
available 24/7, talk or chat online

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Crisis Text Line
text HOME to 741741
https://www.crisistextline.org/
available 24/7, text only

Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via text.

Samaritans Statewide Helpline
1-877-870-4673
http://samaritanshope.org/
available 24/7, talk or text

Samaritans provides non-judgmental support for people who are feeling uncertain about anything in their life, and also provides resources for those reaching out with concern for others.

Call 2 Talk
508-532-2255
http://mass211.org/call2talk/
available 24/7, talk or text

The Call2Talk Line is a confidential, emotional support line that assists individuals and families through stressful times including those that are despondent and those who may be considering suicide.

Boys Town National Hotline for Youth
1-800-448-3000
http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org
available 24/7, call, text, email, or chat online

The Boys Town National Hotline is a free resource and counseling service that assists youth and parents 24/7, year round, nationwide.

Teen Line
The Teen Line is manned by trained volunteers, many who are teenagers themselves. They can speak to anyone who needs help working something out.
Teen Line 1-800-266-7883
https://teenlineonline.org/talk-now/
also offers online chat and text

Veterans Crisis Line
1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
available 24/7, talk, text, or chat online

The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that’s available to current and former service members, and their supporters.

LGBT National Hotline
1-888-843-4564
https://www.glbthotline.org/
​limited hours, talk or chat online

The LGBT National Hotline provides free and confidential support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and those with questions about sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Trans Lifeline
1-877-565-8860
http://www.translifeline.org/
limited hours, talk only

Trans Lifeline’s Hotline is a peer support service run by trans people, for trans and questioning callers.

TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ youth
1-866-488-7386
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
available 24/7, call, text, or chat online

TrevorLifeline is a crisis intervention and suicide prevention phone service for LGBTQ youth.

SafeLink Massachusetts Domestic Violence Hotline
1-877-785-2020
https://www.casamyrna.org/get-support/safelink/
available 24/7, call only

SafeLink is a statewide domestic violence hotline and a resource for anyone impacted by domestic or dating violence. Calls are answered by a trained advocate who provides non-judgmental support, assistance with safety planning, and information on appropriate resources.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233
http://www.thehotline.org/
available 24/7, talk or chat online

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-4673
https://rainn.org/
available 24/7, talk or online chat

Call RAINN to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Disaster Distress Helpline
1-800-985-5990
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline
available 24/7, talk only

The Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Emergency Services Programs (ESPs – often called crisis teams) provide community-based assessment, intervention, and stabilization services for people experiencing mental health crisis. This means that they will talk to people who feel they are in or near crisis, and help them find the supports they need to get better. Their goal is to keep people out of the hospital and in the community whenever possible.

ESP services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can find the ESP serving your area, by calling 1-877-382-1609 and entering your zip code. You can also find a list of ESPs by location online, at: https://www.masspartnership.com/pdf/ESPflyerprovidersandcollaterals.pdf (opens in a new window).