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How to support someone going through a mental health crisis

A mental health crisis isn't something that we can easily prepare for, but there are ways to help someone in need.


Most of us have experienced situations in our lives that have left us feeling overwhelmed or hopeless and in desperate need of someone to talk to. Without support, those moments can turn into a mental health crisis, in which a person could struggle to take care of themselves and be at risk of hurting themselves or others.

Someone who has a diagnosed mental illness has a greater chance of going through a crisis, but it can happen to anyone at any time – especially after a traumatic experience. Crises are not easy to prepare for, but the warning signs could be easily missed. If you’re concerned about a loved one, look for these things:

  • An inability to handle daily tasks, including basic personal care
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Agitation, which could include violent behavior
  • Isolating behavior
  • Losing touch with reality
  • Paranoia or extreme anxiety
  • Speaking of self-harm
  • Changes in personality
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Reckless behavior

Approaching someone who may be in crisis can be daunting. They may not be making rational decisions or speaking clearly. As someone who loves them and wants to help, it can be difficult to know what to do or what to say. You can ask, “How are you feeling about your life right now?” and “What do you think could help?” It’s important to normalize how they’re feeling. You can say things like, “That would be upsetting” or, “I can imagine that would be difficult to cope with.” Let them know they’re not alone. Focus on listening with empathy and without judgement.

You may not be able to de-escalate the situation on your own. Be prepared to call in someone else to help. You can call Burrell Behavioral Health’s Crisis Line for someone else. Trained Crisis Specialists will reach out to the person you’re concerned about directly to see how they can help in the moment. Crisis Specialists are also able to meet people in person for assessments. They can refer someone to immediate mental healthcare resources.

If someone says they’re considering suicide, ask them if they’ve already done something to hurt themselves – like taken too many medications – so you’ll know if you need to call 911.

Be aware of available resources in your community. Burrell's has multiple services available 24/7 at its Behavioral Crisis Center at 800 S. Park in Springfield. The Access Unit is a walk-in access point for adults in need of immediate psychiatric care, Medication-Assisted Treatment for opioid use, psychiatric assessment, initial assessment eligibility determination, brief therapy, peer support services, 23-hour observation, referral to appropriate follow up treatment and more.

Adults in crisis can also find help at Burrell’s Stabilization Center. Referrals can be made by community agencies, medical providers, self-referrals, etc. The center has eight voluntary beds for adults and is available for individuals to receive stabilization care in a less restrictive environment than hospitalization. During someone’s stay at the center, Burrell provides psychiatric assessment, nursing assessment, medication education, psychoeducational groups, individual therapy, and discharge planning for next steps as the person returns to their home environment.

More information: Crisis Intervention Center | Crisis Hotline | Burrell (burrellcenter.com)

Burrell’s Crisis Lines are available to Burrell clients, community members, partner agencies and Burrell staff. Anyone who needs someone to talk to can find someone to listen and recommend resources at these numbers:

To learn more about the Crisis Line and 24/7 services, watch this video.

About Burrell Behavioral Health
Burrell Behavioral Health is the second largest behavioral health center in Missouri, working with more than 40,000 clients across 18 counties in Missouri. Burrell has more than 400 licensed providers offering a full continuum of care through our integrated network. Services include individual therapy and counseling, addiction recovery, psychiatric and medication management, educational and therapeutic groups, crisis intervention, medication-assisted treatment, adult stabilization, case management, residential treatment, autism, diagnostic testing and evaluations and developmental disability support. Learn more about Burrell’s programs and services at www.burrellcenter.com.


More In: Trauma & PTSD

24-Hour Crisis Line

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health or substance-use crisis, please call our toll-free 24-hour telephone line. Our team can help provide immediate assistance.

Southwest Missouri: 1-800-494-7355

Central Missouri: 1-800-395-2132

National Help Line: Call or Text 988