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Crisis Support

What to Do in Emergency Situations

If a person becomes violent, gets completely out of control, or tries to commit suicide, there are several things you can do:

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  • In a dangerous or violent crisis » call the police. Often the police are the best equipped, most available resource, especially when violence has occurred or when there is a strong possibility that the person may do physical injury to self or others. Once the emergency situation has been brought under control, if the troubled individual is already in treatment, call his or her therapist.
  • In a nonviolent crisis » contacting other resources may be the best choice. For example, if an individual hasn't eaten for a substantial period of time and has become weak and dehydrated, call his or her physician or therapist. If the person doesn't have one, get him or her to a hospital emergency room where there are doctors on duty – even if you have to call an ambulance to get there. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Ambulance," or call the fire department or rescue squad. Look under the list of emergency numbers in the front of your phone book or call the operator if you can't find a number in a hurry.

Emergency room doctors will treat injuries resulting from violence, a suicide attempt, or a drug or alcohol overdose. They may also be able to provide temporary help for an emotional problem, even if they are not mental health specialists. In addition, they will be able to tell you where and how to get further help.

If the person in crisis is a member of a church, synagogue, or temple, you may choose to call the minister, priest, or rabbi. Many members of the clergy are trained to deal with emergencies, or they can refer you to other sources of help.

woman on phoneYou may choose to call a mental health or crisis hotline, drug hotline, suicide prevention center, "free clinic," or Alcoholics Anonymous chapter, if your area has such services. Their telephones are often staffed around the clock. Look for a number in the list of emergency or community service numbers in the front of your phone book, or you can find a listing in the white-pages section of the Yellow Pages under "Suicide," "Mental Health" or "Alcoholics Anonymous," or ask the operator for help.

Another option would be to call the nearest mental health center. If it is not listed that way in the phone book, look under "Hospital," "Mental Health," or "Physicians" in the Yellow Pages. Mental health centers generally provide a wide range of services. Included in these are:

  • 24-hour emergency service » day or night service available at hospitals or other mental health clinics.
  • Outpatient care » a person goes into the center's clinic for treatment that has been set up on a regular appointment basis.
  • Inpatient service » a person stays at the hospital where care is provided.
  • Partial hospitalization » a person might spend occasional days, nights, or weekends at the center, living at home and going to work as much as possible.
  • Consultation, education, and prevention services » assist schools, community organizations, institutions, and businesses in dealing with mentally ill persons and in developing programs that help in the understanding and prevention of emotional disorders.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services » National Mental Health Information Center

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