What is a Mental Health Crisis?

A mental health crisis is when you or a loved one is unable to care for themselves because of emotional distress. This crisis may inhibit your ability to function properly or may even put you at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. The onset of such a crisis can be a result of trauma, conflict, stress, loss, substance abuse, or a number of other factors. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has highlighted the necessity for digital mental health services to address such issues.

Oftentimes, an emotional breakdown is tied to a mental health condition. You may already have been diagnosed and are being treated. On the other hand, you might need to seek professional mental health care as a result of the breakdown experience.

What Are the Signs of a Mental Health Crisis?

Mental health crises can look different for different individuals. But the most general signs of a mental health crisis may include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal actions
  • Self-harm
  • Violence
  • Risky behaviors
  • Extreme mood swings

What Should I Do in A Mental Health Crisis?

It can be hard to know what exactly to do in a mental health crisis. But above all, it’s imperative to get either yourself or your loved one emergency mental health help when experiencing a serious breakdown. Waiting to do anything could make the problem worse and lead to serious consequences.

Many people do not know what to say to someone having a mental breakdown or how to help someone in a mental crisis. The bottom line, however, is to act. If the episode is severe, you should seek the help of a professional who is trained in mental health crisis prevention and de-escalation. If there is the threat of self-harm, call 911 if the person is in immediate danger.

There are plenty of hotline resources available, too. It might feel overwhelming for your friend to pick up the phone, so don’t hesitate to call on your friend’s behalf. If they can do it themselves, you can offer to sit nearby while they start the conversation. Some helpful mental health hotlines and service numbers include:

  • The Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255
  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 888-333-2377
  • National Eating Disorder Association 1-800-931-2237
  • Crisis Text Line: Text SUPPORT to 741-741
  • Rape, Use and Incest National Network 1-800-656-4673

Know that from time to time, most everyone has felt overwhelmed. The stressors from daily life as well as situation-specific stressors can lead to feelings of anxiety, sadness, and the inability to cope. But having a mental breakdown is feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and unable to cope to a different extreme—it’s key to be able to spot the difference.

What Triggers a Mental Breakdown?

Mental breakdowns commonly follow some sort of trigger or triggers. Usually, there was already a high level of stress coupled with unhealthy coping methods in place already. Then, an acute stress trigger occurs and a mental breakdown ensues. A nervous breakdown or mental breakdown is caused by both excessive amounts of stress as well as poor coping skills. 

The stress can be something that has been building over time or it can be a sudden stressful event or series of sudden, stressful events. It is different for everyone. The amount of stressors and types of stressors each person can endure before they “break” is unique to them. 

Without making the unhelpful error of “correlation equals causation,” there are also environmental factors that affect mental health triggers. One study shows that there are stressors present in urban living situations, such as poverty, social isolation, discrimination, and access to services, that increase risk of mental health crises.

Mental Health or Substance Abuse Triggers

In addition to the above triggers, there are often underlying mental health issues that were already present. These conditions can lead or contribute to the mental breakdown. Individuals with anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder can be more prone to have a mental breakdown. 

Furthermore, there are those who either have or develop substance use disorders (SUD) or addictive patterns. Many people who are under enormous amounts of stress turn to alcohol or other substances to help relieve the stress. Although an unhealthy coping skill for stress, substance abuse is all too common and can contribute to mental breakdowns.

For substance abuse related triggers for either you or a loved one, it’s important to find an addiction treatment center that effectively addresses co-occurring disorders such as these. 

How Do I Support a Friend in Crisis Over the Long-Term?

Reaching a healthy mental state can take a long time after experiencing a mental illness crisis. Setbacks are common but they don’t mean failure. It is important to help a friend in crisis even after the initial episode is finished. Some of the best ways to help someone work toward healing include:

  • Set up regular calls and visits from you and others in their social circle
  • Encourage them to attend therapy, take medications, and do self-care activities as directed
  • Participate in self-care activities with them like exercise, healthy eating, and mindfulness
  • Offer to drive them to therapy or set up devices for digital mental health resources
  • Help with childcare or other responsibilities to give them quiet time for self-care
  • Take them to do something they enjoy like a show or their favorite sporting event

As you provide support, remember to honor their journey and preferences. Everyone is different, so don’t judge or invalidate their experience. Also, always keep your own mental health in mind and reach out for help for yourself if needed. You may not know exactly how to help someone in crisis, but you do not need to go through the process alone. 

For treatment programs designed for addiction and mental health interventions, reach out to a team member at Pinnacle Recovery today. Don’t hesitate—one day could make all the difference!