Help for someone in crisis


Psychiatric emergencies can be distressing and traumatic both for those in crisis and those close to them. If the patient is already known to a psychiatrist, contact the treating doctor directly. If you are unsure of their contact details, click here. Patients who are known to state hospitals will normally need to follow the same process as for new patients.

If the patient is not known to a psychiatrist, but wants help, then the best way to help them is to take them to your local clinic or a GP who can then refer them to a hospital or specialist psychiatrist who will assess what treatment they need and whether they should be admitted. Psychiatrists will usually only see a new patient in an emergency on referral from another doctor.

Unlike other medical emergencies, there are extreme cases where the person in crisis does not want help. This can either be because they are severely suicidal and do not wish help out of their depression or because their minds are so confused that they have lost contact with reality and may believe that other people wish to harm them. There is a legal process around admitting people against their will – also known as involuntary care. They will be observed for at least 3 days in a general hospital before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital. As a part of this process, you will need to complete forms requesting the hospital to assess the patient and explaining the reasons that you are concerned.

If they are not violent or aggressive, you can take them directly to a local emergency unit. You may need a referral from a local doctor or clinic to get admitted to an observation unit.

If they are so disturbed that they have become aggressive or violent, the police are obliged to assist in taking them to the clinic or hospital for an assessment. You would still be required to also accompany the patient to explain the situation to the doctor and to start a legal process to have them assessed for treatment against their wishes (also known as involuntary care).