Helping a friend in crisis

Here, we offer advice from personal experience about how to help a friend in a mental health crisis.

Mental health crises come in all shapes and sizes, and although there is a lot of support available for those directly experiencing the crisis, it can be draining if you are supporting a friend or family member. 

From personal experience, getting support for a loved one is scary and overwhelming. Not only do you have to deal with worrying about their wellbeing, but you have to also worry about their reaction to your decision to get help for them.  See our tips below about how to support a friend in a crisis.

How to to help a friend in a mental health crisis

  • Speak to them if you are worried that they are acting unusual or unwell. Even simply asking “are you ok?” can mean a lot to vulnerable people and may give them a chance to open up. 
  • If you are worried, speak to them about getting support. If you are not a trained mental health professional, you should not be making executive decisions about someone else’s health. Like any physical illness, they need to be examined as soon as possible. The NHS is free and here to help. If you are worried, there is no harm in getting in touch with them. 
  • Create a support network of friends, family, partners, and colleagues for them. Now is not the time to focus on any personal disputes you may with these people. If you want to help support your loved one, it requires a connected community to help them feel safe. No one person should feel obligated to care for another or to cut others out of this process as it’s too much mental strain for one individual. This is a team effort. 
  • Keep in touch. During this time, it’s best to focus on the positives and their recovery around them. Understandably, taking charge through action (such as calling an ambulance) is scary and can leave us doubting ourselves and our judgement. Make sure to remove them from any situations that may escalate their condition, particularly if certain activities contribute to the degradation of their wellbeing.
  • If they refuse help and you are still concerned, call 111 or 999 if it is an emergency and ask for an Ambulance. Historically, the Police can be undertrained in mental health first aid and can be frightening for the person in crisis. If you are worried about a loved one’s health, calling an ambulance will help transport them to get the help they need, and they can say no.  
  • Take care of yourself. This will undoubtedly be draining, and there’s very often a “right” way to go about helping someone else. You may face criticism or backlash, but if they get the help they need, have faith in yourself that you’ve done the right thing. You may come across backlash from the person you helped or even their friends, it is important that you find support for yourself from other sources during this difficult time. You did the right thing. Remember, you are not a trained mental health professional and there is no shame in mental illness or getting help, hopefully, in time, your friend or loved one will understand that you did absolutely what was best for them.

Support services and helplines

If you are wanting help, there is a vast amount of free support out there. Take a look through the options below to locate the support best fitting for you.

Anxiety UK

Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.

Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)

Bipolar UK

A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.

Mental Health Foundation

Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

Mind

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

Rethink Mental Illness

Support and advice for people living with mental illness.

Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

Samaritans

Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

SANE

Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. 

SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)

Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most

Peer support forum

YoungMinds

Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.

Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

CALM

CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.

Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)

Men’s Health Forum

24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.

OCD Action

Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.

Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge

OCD UK

A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.

Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

No Panic

Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.

Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge

PAPYRUS

Young suicide prevention society.

Phone: HOPELINEUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm, and 2pm to 10pm on weekends and bank holidays)

Mental Health Foundation

Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

Mind

Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)

Rethink Mental Illness

Support and advice for people living with mental illness.

Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

Samaritans

Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

SANE

Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. 

SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)

Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most

Peer support forum

YoungMinds

Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.

Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)

See our other resources