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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."

How can a crisis team help me?

Crisis teams can help if you need urgent mental health support. This includes times when you might otherwise need to go to hospital for your mental health. For example, this may be because of psychosis, severe self-harm or suicide attempts.

The team usually includes a number of mental health professionals, such as a psychiatrist, mental health nurses, social workers and support workers.

Crisis teams can:

The amount of support they provide can vary, such as 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. You might feel you would rather be treated in hospital. For example, this may be 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 a crisis team?

There are different ways you can access your local crisis team during a crisis. This depends on your situation and how your local team works. The options include:

  • 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 Accident & Emergency (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.
  • Contacting them yourself, if you're already been referred and have their contact details.

Urgent mental health helplines (England only)

If you live in England, you can also call a local NHS urgent mental health helpline for support during a mental health crisis. Anyone can call these helplines, at any time. You don’t need to be referred to this service.

These helplines can assess your mental health and help you access support. This may include support provided by a crisis team. The NHS website has more information on urgent mental health helplines, including how to find your local helpline.

"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."

What questions could I ask a crisis team?

If you are put in contact with a crisis team, it might help to ask them about their service while you are feeling well. These questions may help:

  • 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.

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