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.
If you're experiencing a mental health crisis, staying in hospital might be the best way to keep you safe and provide you with the level of treatment you need. This might be because:
Your experience of being treated in hospital can depend on:
Some people prefer being in hospital while others find it very difficult. Below are some aspects of hospital stays you might want to consider:
"In psychiatric units, [I find] the most successful ones are those that organise activities for the patients, get us involved in our care, and take time out to actually listen to us, to our needs, and even just be someone to listen to us when we're feeling down."
If you think staying in hospital could help you, then you can ask your GP, psychiatrist or another health care professional to refer you.
If you choose to go into hospital, you are considered a voluntary patient (also known as an informal patient). This means that:
Unfortunately many areas have a shortage of available beds, so it might not always be possible for you to be treated in hospital - even if that's what you'd prefer. (Our page on voluntary patients has more information, including on the advantages and disadvantages of being a voluntary patient.)
If a group of mental health professionals agree that hospital treatment would be in your best interests to keep you or others safe, then they could detain you in hospital under the Mental Health Act (sometimes called being sectioned) – even if you don't want to be there.
See our pages on sectioning for information about the circumstances in which you can be sectioned, and about your legal rights.
"[The crisis team] admitted me to a hospital 20ish miles away [from where I live]. After three weeks in there I was sent home, and they visited every few days for two weeks until I got a CPN (community psychiatric nurse)."
There are some differences in what happens when you leave hospital depending on whether you are a voluntary patient or have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
"I don't recall having a care plan in hospital. I certainly wasn't aware of a discharge plan and this caused myself and my partner stress and anxiety."
This information was published in October 2018. We will revise it in 2021.
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