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.

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)

Further support and education for people with mental illness and their families and carers

beyondblue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours / 7 days a week.

Blue Knot Foundation Helpline (formerly ASCA Professional Support Line) provides help, information, support or referral for adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, their partners, family and friends, health professionals and anyone in the workplace working with people who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse. Call 1300 657 380, 9am-5pm AEST / 7 days a week.

Butterfly Foundation's National Helpline, ED HOPE, is a free, confidential service that provides information, counselling and treatment referral for people with eating disorders, and body image and related issues. Call 1800 33 4673 8am-9pm AEST / 7 days a week.

eheadspace provides mental health and wellbeing support, information and services to young people aged 12 to 25 years and their families. Call 1800 650 890.

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men. Call 1300 78 99 78, 24 hours / 7 days a week.

The MindSpot Clinic is a free telephone and online service for people with stress, worry, anxiety, low mood or depression. They provide online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression. The MindSpot Clinic does not provide an emergency or instant response service. Call 1800 61 44 34 AEST, 8am-8pm (Mon-Fri), 8am-6pm (Sat).

QLife provides nationwide telephone and web-based services to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people of all ages. Call 1800 184 527, 3pm-12am (midnight) AEST / 7 days a week.

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) provides a national telephone information, counselling and referral service staffed by trained volunteers, professional counsellors and supervising staff. Many helpline counsellors have had their own experience of perinatal depression or anxiety. Call 1300 726 306, 9am-7:30pm AEST (Mon-Fri).

SANE Australia provides support, training and education enabling those with a mental illness to lead a better life. Call 1800 18 7263, 9am-5pm AEST (Mon-Fri).

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) provides 24/7 free and confidential, nationwide counselling and support for war and service-related mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, sleep disturbanceand anger. Call 1800 011 046.