for better mental health

Crisis services and planning for a crisis

This guide explains what mental health crisis services are available, how they can help and when to access them. It also explains how you can plan for a crisis. If you're feeling in crisis right now, see our emergency advice.

"I had a crisis at the GP surgery [...] so I saw the crisis team right quick (within four hours!). Needless to say in these circumstances the crisis service was comparatively brilliant."

When should I use a crisis team?

If you need urgent support and you are already in contact with your local mental health services. This could include ongoing support after visiting A&E or staying in hospital.

How could it help me?

Crisis teams support people who might otherwise need to go to hospital, for example due to psychosis, severe self-harm or suicide attempts. They usually include a number of mental health professionals, such as a psychiatrist, mental health nurses, social workers and support workers.

They can:

The amount of support they provide can vary, for example, how often they can visit you and whether you can contact them 24 hours a day. Staff members often work in shifts, so you might not see the same people each time.

Support from a crisis team could help you manage a crisis at home, which some people prefer. But this isn't right for everyone and you might feel you'd rather be treated in hospital – for example if your home environment has contributed to you feeling in crisis.

"[My] crisis team have been with me on three separate occasions for two months at a time, sometimes visiting twice a day to keep me out of hospital."

How can I access it?

There are different ways you can access your local crisis team during a crisis, depending on your situation and how your local team works. These can include:

  • Contacting them yourself. If you're already in contact with a crisis team, you might have been given details for getting in touch with them during a crisis.
  • Being referred. Many crisis teams can only support people who have been referred to them by another health care professional. For example, you might be referred to a crisis team after visiting A&E or your GP.
  • Through your care plan. If you are currently being supported by a community mental health team (CMHT), your care plan should include details of who to contact in a crisis, which will often be your local crisis team.

"Most of the guys at my local crisis team are brilliant. Even when they've already seen me in A&E three times that week it still feels as important."

You might want to ask your crisis team:

  • What support can they provide during a crisis? For example providing information or advice, or support if you're experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • How do they provide this support? For example if they will call you or if you should call them, how often you can speak to someone and at what times of day.

"[My crisis team] were very supportive but the biggest issue was continuity and staffing. [In my case] there was a lot of 'we will see you tomorrow' and then they would change times at short notice or not come at all."

This information was published in October 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

Share this information

arrow_upwardBack to Top