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How to help in a crisis

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How to help when someone experiences a mental health crisis

When caring for someone with a mental illness, there may be times when their health deteriorates to a point that immediate support is required. This may be because they have developed suicidal thoughts or are perhaps so agitated that they may be a risk to others. When this occurs, it is best to contact a specialist service that is able to assess the situation and help you to decide on the best course of action.

If the person you are caring for agrees, you can attend the emergency department of your local hospital. However, there are times when the person affected might not agree there is any risk, or might not be willing to reach out for help. When this occurs you can contact the local Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT) through the closest major public hospital. In some parts of Australia they are called Psychiatric Emergency Teams (PET).

The CATT/ PET is a multi-disciplinary team with Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Social workers and Nurses who provide assessment and support for people who are in crisis with mental illness. Their phone lines are staffed 24 hours a day.

Your local team will conduct an initial phone assessment and may get in contact with other treating practitioners.

From this assessment they will decide how to best support the person in crisis. This may involve a home visit as their aim is to treat people in the community where possible. However, they may decide that hospitalisation is necessary to ensure the best care.

If you have any questions or concerns, you are welcome to contact the SANE Help Centre.

To find your local CATT or PET team, ring your closest major public hospital.

Other agencies that can help in a crisis

Emergency: police & ambulance
000 (24 Hrs)

Lifeline telephone counselling
13 11 14 (24 Hrs)

Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 (24 Hrs)

Kids Helpline
1800 55 1800 (24 Hrs)

Helping in a crisis

Further information about helping in a crisis can be found in SANE Steps: How to help when someone is suicidal and Has someone close to you with a mental illness gone missing.

More information about facts, diagnosis, treatments and other matters relating to mental illness can be found in the Facts & guides section of this website.
Last updated: 4 November, 2015

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