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What is a crisis situation?

A “crisis” situation is happening if a person with mental illness is:

  • A danger to themselves
  • If other people are in danger
  • If their symptoms are escalating and their behavior is becoming out of control or dangerous
How should a crisis be handled?

When a crisis occurs, it is usually not expected. It is important to be prepared for the unexpected; to have a plan in place. Create a list of important phone numbers and information. Keep it somewhere accessible; next to the phone, in your wallet, etc. Include the following information:

  • Your local crisis services phone number and local ER phone number
  • The name and phone number of the person’s psychiatrist and psychologist
  • A list of the person’s medications (the names and dosage information)
  • The person’s diagnosis and, if possible, treatment history
  • The name of a friend or family member that may be of assistance
  • The number for you local NAMI-NYS affiliate
  • The number for the local police department
It is helpful to speak to a local mental health worker or local NAMI-NYS affiliate member ahead of time, so if services are needed you know what to expect and how to obtain them.

What services will crisis provide and how do crisis services “work”?

Most counties in New York state have 24-hour staff coverage for crisis intervention and an emergency telephone number from which services are available. The comprehensiveness of services provided from area to area vary, but nevertheless are an important point of contact in a crisis situation. These services should respond to any call for help, to conduct an evaluation and help stabilize the ill person, and provide information and comfort to family members and friends who are involved in the crisis situation.

In emergencies, local law enforcement agencies may also play an important role in obtaining mental health care. In the event of a crisis, crisis services may send an individual to evaluate the situation. That person is usually trained to conduct an evaluation for presence of serious mental illness and assess the level of dangerousness, if any. Often if the crisis worker comes to a private home or apartment to conduct an evaluation, they will bring a police officer with them for their own safety, and for the safety and protection of other people at the crisis scene. Normally the police officer is not present to arrest the ill person, unless an illegal act has been committed. However, law enforcement procedures commonly require police officers to transport the mentally ill person in a police cruiser to a hospital.

Plan Ahead: If you sense a deterioration in your friend or relative's mental condition, contact their doctor, case manager, or social worker. If this is not possible or these people do not exist in their life, call the NAMI-NYS office, local NAMI-NYS affiliate, or local mental health clinic for advice and information. If it should become necessary to call the crisis emergency telephone number or the police, have written information available about the ill person's diagnosis, medications, and specific behavior that precipitated the crisis. It may be useful to have several copies to give to the crisis intervention workers and the ER workers.

NAMI-NYS Helpline
(518) 462-2000
1-800-950-3228 - NY Only

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