How to Help a Loved One in a Mental Health Crisis

Signs that a person may be experiencing a mental health crisis:

  • Thoughts of harming self or others
  • Attempts at harming self or others
  • Mental health symptoms that impact ability to function or care for basic needs

Options in a mental health crisis:

  1. Call 9-1-1
    If the person is presenting an immediate risk of danger to themselves or others, call 911. You may also call 911 to request a wellness check if you are unsure of their current safety.
  2. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 9-8-8
    The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. People may call for themselves or for a loved one who is struggling. Trained crisis workers are available to talk, assess the level of risk, and develop a plan to help keep the person safe.
  3. Go to the hospital for a mental health assessment
    A mental health assessment is performed by a mental health clinician to assess a person’s safety and determine the appropriate level of mental health care for that person. A mental health assessment can be completed at a psychiatric hospital or at any community hospital or emergency room. Based upon the assessment, a clinician may recommend that the person be admitted to an inpatient mental health facility.
  4. Initiate involuntary commitment (IVC)
    If a loved one is experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis and is refusing treatment, it may be appropriate to file a petition for involuntary commitment. This process is typically initiated through your local law enforcement or the clerk of courts. Call 211 for a referral to the appropriate entity.
  • For more information on what to do in a mental health crisis, call 211 or search our online database:
    • Enter your Zip Code
      • Select the following categories:
        • Mental Health
        • Crisis
        • Suicide Prevention and Support

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
South Dakota Department of Social Services 
Disclaimer: This HelpSheet is developed by the Helpline Center for informational purposes only. HelpSheets provide a brief overview of the designated topic. For more information, call 211 or text your zip code to 898211.
Updated August 2023