A mental health emergency (or crisis) occurs when someone's mental or emotional condition results in behavior that poses an imminent danger to that person or to someone else, whether that danger is life threatening or not.
In either case, emergencies should be taken very seriously, and immediate attention is required.
What are some indications that a mental health emergency is occurring?
- exhibiting suicidal intentions, plans or attempts
- exhibiting homicidal intentions, plans or actions
- loss of contact with reality, which may include hallucinations, delusions or extremely abnormal behavior causing a campus disturbance or disruption
- disorientation, extreme confusion, unresponsiveness, uncontrolled behavior, extremely irrational or incoherent speech
Warning signs of suicide
- situational: stressful or traumatic experience
- depressive: changes in usual behavior; inability to concentrate; socially withdrawn, easily agitated; apathy, crying, sense of worthlessness; appears sad; abusing substances
- verbal signs: direct or indirect, verbally or in written material (e.g., assignments, papers, etc.)
- behavioral: giving away possessions, writing a suicide note, acquiring means to commit suicide, organizing business and personal matters, suddenly resigning from organizations or clubs
Look for a cluster of clues. A suicidal person who gives warning signs will most often present more than one clue.
When the situation is not clear
- share your concerns with the student directly
- contact 911 or, if on campus, call 410.837.4444
- once the student is in the safety of a professional, share the information about the incident with the Office of Community Life Compass program so a trained support coach can follow-up and make sure the student has access to available resources.
Do's and don'ts in responding to warning signs of suicide
- DO show that you take the student's feelings seriously.
- DO let the student know that you want to help.
- DO listen attentively and empathize.
- DO reassure that with help, he or she will recover.
- DO stay close until help is available or risk has passed.
- DON'T try to shock or challenge the student.
- DON'T analyze the student's motives.
- DON'T become argumentative.
- DON'T react with shock or disdain at the student's thoughts and feelings.
- DON'T minimize the student's distress.