for better mental health

Crisis services and planning for a crisis

A guide explaining what mental health crisis services are available, how they can help and when to access them. Also provides guidance on how you can plan for a crisis.

I'm in crisis now and I need urgent help

If you don't feel you can keep yourself safe right now, seek immediate help:

If you need urgent support but don't want to go to A&E, you could:

If you want to help someone else, see our page on how to help someone else seek help, including how to help someone else in an emergency.

What is a mental health crisis?

A mental health crisis is when you feel your mental health is at breaking point, and you need urgent help and support.

For example, you might have feelings or experiences that feel very painful or difficult to manage such as suicidal feelings, self-harm, panic attacks, flashbacks, hypomania or mania, or psychosis (such as paranoia or hearing voices). You might also have other experiences that aren't mentioned here.

Some people feel in crisis as part of ongoing mental health problems, or due to stressful and difficult life experiences such as abuse, bereavement, addiction, money problems or housing problems. Or there might not be a particular reason.

However you experience a crisis, it's always OK to ask for help.

What help could I get?

Nobody plans to have a crisis, but knowing your options can be useful. Exploring different types of support might be something you feel able to do at less difficult times. (Our page on planning for a crisis has more suggestions).

There’s no wrong order to try things in – different things work for different people at different times. But some types of support might be more suitable for you, or more easily available.

Below is information on some types of crisis support:

Emergency GP appointments

Your local GP surgery should offer you an appointment quickly if you need urgent support. You don't need to be registered as a patient already.

To find out more, see our pages on:

Accident & Emergency (A&E)

A&E departments are open 24 hours a day and anyone can visit them free of charge.

To find out more, see our page on:

Helplines & listening services

Helplines provide trained listeners and often have other options for getting in touch, like email, text messaging or web chat.

To find out more, see our page on:

Crisis teams (CRHTs)

Crisis teams support people who might otherwise need to go to hospital. They can support you during a crisis if you're already under their care.

To find out more, see our page on:

Treatment in hospital

During a crisis, staying in hospital might be the best way to keep you safe and provide you with the level of treatment you need.

To find out more, see our page on:

Crisis houses

Crisis houses offer intensive, short-term support in a residential setting.

To find out more, see our page on:

Day services

Day services can be helpful if you're managing a mental health crisis at home.

To find out more, see our page on:

male smiling, with ginger hair and white knit jumper

Accessing NHS services in a crisis

"I could have just tidied myself up and gone to work but somehow I knew I had to speak to a doctor."

What if I can't get the help I need?

Unfortunately, not everyone gets the care, support and respect they need during a crisis. Excellent crisis services do exist, but some services aren't available in all areas or don't provide a good enough standard of care.

"I once waited over 4 hours in the waiting area with a friend in the middle of the night. During my worst crisis I was contained (prevented from leaving) alone in a virtually empty room overnight."

It can be really hard if you don't get the crisis care you need, but it's important to remember that you deserve help and support. Here are some options for you to think about:

  • Explore other options for support. There may be something you haven't tried yet that could be helpful. (Our pages on Useful contacts and facing and overcoming barriers suggest some starting points.)
  • Get to know your rights. Our legal pages explain your rights in a range of situations. If you're unhappy with how you've been treated, you can complain.
  • Find an advocate. An advocate could help you to express yourself and get your voice heard. (Find out more in our pages on advocacy.)
  • Take action with Mind. We're campaigning for better crisis care across the country. (See our campaigning page for more information.)

"I once saw a crisis team within a few hours of seeing my GP. They said they couldn't understand what the problem was and therefore couldn't help me, which left me feeling very unsupported."

Rachel’s story

Listen to Rachel talking about her experience of going through times of crisis with her mental health, and the different crisis services she accessed for support.


Read the transcript of the podcast here. Find out more about our podcasts or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Audioboom.

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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