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Emergency Mental Health

If there is physical danger, if your child needs to be physically restrained, or if you think your child will not cooperate with a visit to the doctor or hospital, it is time to call 911.

  • Is it life threatening or likely to become life threatening?

  • Is there a threat of imminent harm to self or others, or have harmful actions already occurred (hurting someone, taking an overdose of medication, or pulling out a weapon…)?

  • Is there intoxication or self-injury that requires medical attention?

  • Is there erratic or strange behavior that endangers the child/teen’s safety or others’ safety (behavior that is unpredictable, behavior that the child/teen isn’t able to control…) ?


What to do

  • Do not leave the child or teen alone

  • Call 911 or get someone else to do it

  • Tell the 911 operator that this is a mental health emergency.

  • Ask the 911 operator to have the responding officer call you in route so you can share critical details or you can make a plan to meet the officer outside the incident site to share background information. The more information first responders have about a situation, the better prepared they are to assist.

  • Ask for a CIT Officer (someone who has had crisis intervention training to help youth with mental health disorders.)

  • 911 will coordinate with AMBULANCE and first responders.

If YOU Drive to the Emergency Department
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If there is no immediate danger, you may have time to talk to a 24/7 Mobile Crisis Team to discuss options. ​


  • If the Crisis Team can not come to you or, if the Crisis Team explains that the crisis symptoms are too severe... you may be asked to take your child to the Emergency Department. 

  • Always make sure that you are BOTH SAFE to drive. 

  • If needed, bring another trusted adult. 

  • Bring medications that your child is taking (or bring a list.) If possible, bring any other drugs or substances your child has used.

  • Bring a calm down toolkit (wireless headphones, fidgets, blanket, snack and drink etc.)

Understanding the Emergency Department

Most of us have experience visiting the Emergency Department. We might get a chest x-ray or physical exam and then leave with antibiotics for an infection or a cast on a broken bone. But, assessing and treating a mental health emergency can feel different. If our child is not admitted, we can leave feeling scared and not knowing what to do.  

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You are Not a Failure...

"You are not a failure because you have taken your child to the ER. You may feel terrified and ashamed, but you are not a failure. You are, in fact, a hero. You have done the brave thing, the hard thing, the only thing you knew to do to keep your child safe..."

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Emergency Department Checklist

If you have time, you might want to use section #6 (Mental Health) of our Family Care Organizer. You will find crisis plans, emergency and discharge checklists, a crisis communication sheet, coping strategies etc. 


When possible, read these BEFORE an emergency so that yo are prepared- just in case!

For more information 
search our online library!

Search for Inpatient Psychiatric Hospitalization

You can use our search tool to find inpatient psychiatric hospitalization services near you.  Remember to filter by AGE and then read the descriptions provided by the hospital. 

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Search For:


  • Crisis & Walk-In Services

  • Inpatient Hospitalization

  • Partial Hospitalization

  • Intensive Outpatient Programs

  • Residential Services

  • Outpatient Mental Health

  • Other Family Services

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Hospitalization (inpatient) may be necessary if your child is...


  • Thinking about hurting self or others

  • Seeing or hearing things (hallucinations)

  • Having bizarre or paranoid thoughts (delusions)

  • Being extremely aggressive or destructive

  • Using drugs or alcohol and refusing to stop/ not able to stop

  • Not eating or sleeping for an extended period of time

  • Exhibiting severe psychiatric symptoms (e.g. anxiety, mania, or depression) that has not responded to treatment        

  • For more information on signs & symproms visit our page on children's mental health crisis 


Time spent in the hospital is mean to be SHORT. Inpatient services typically include assessment/evaluation, crisis stabilization, diagnosis, treatment, crisis planning, medication management, and referral.  

Youth Mental Health Guide for Crisis or Emergencies
This 6-page guide provides details about the process from crisis to hospital and back home. Suggestions and ideas for each step.
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