When someone you love is having a mental health crisis, it’s natural to want to help—but many of us are unsure how to respond when their loved one is struggling. Read on for some useful de-escalation techniques that may help you manage a crisis situation.

Safety first! Assess the situation—if the individual is in danger of hurting themselves or others, or if you need emergency assistance, call 911. 

How to Recognize a Crisis

Although mental health crises look different for everyone, there are some common warning signs that may indicate a problem. Identifying these signs and taking action early could help prevent an issue from escalating into a crisis. 

  • Struggling to complete daily tasks, such as proper hygiene.
  • Becoming increasingly agitated or experiencing mood swings.
  • Losing touch with reality or showing signs of psychosis.
  • Isolating from social situations, including avoiding family and friends.
  • Demonstrating abusive behavior toward themselves or others.

How to Respond During a Crisis

Communication is key in all conversations, but when a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, it’s important to help them feel heard. Stay calm, give them space, and be patient—they may not be able to clearly communicate their thoughts and feelings.

  • Allow your loved one to say what they are thinking.
  • Maintain a calm and gentle voice. Do your best not to overreact.
  • Do not argue or attempt to reason with them.
  • Move slowly, and announce your actions before moving.
  • Give them some space so they do not feel trapped.
  • Express your support and concern. 

Remember that the goal of de-escalation is not to solve the problem, it’s to calm them down to ensure their safety and the safety of others. If your loved one is not in immediate danger, consider reaching out to their physician, therapist, or other health care professional who is familiar with their situation to request additional assistance. Following a crisis, it is important to encourage your loved one to seek help. 

For Additional Assistance

Many mental health crisis hotlines are equipped to assist with de-escalation. If you require assistance, these resources can help: 

Sana Behavioral Hospital provides compassionate, professional care for aging adults who are struggling with their mental health. If you or your loved one need some support, visit our website or call 928-227-3424 to learn more about our services.