If you find yourself in crisis it is important to know that there are people available to help you…

There may be times when you find yourself or someone that you care for in extreme difficulties and you may need help very quickly.  Locally and nationally, there are people and systems set up to deal with these types of situations.

I’m worried about myself

If you experience mental distress, it can be frightening and you may feel alone. If this is a new experience, you may not know what is happening. If you have experienced similar symptoms before then you will know what does and does not help you in such circumstances. There are a number of actions you can take:

  • Visit a General Practitioner (GP), if you can, to be referred to suitable treatment.
  • Talk to someone you trust, saying what has helped you in the past, if appropriate.
  • Draw up a crisis card, which is a plan of action for people to follow if you start to show signs that indicate that you need help.

How can I approach someone displaying signs of mental distress?

Someone who is experiencing acute mental distress will often be feeling extremely anxious and frightened and may be agitated. It can be frightening to see someone behaving strangely, but there are a number of things you can do to help:

  • Approach gently and quietly.
  • Provide reassurance that you want to help and do not pose any threat.
  • Remain calm yourself by focusing on how you want to support the person.
  • Ask how you can help – often the person will know what does and doesn’t help in a given situation.

People who are experiencing mental health distress are far more likely to pose a risk to themselves than to other people, but there are occasions when they may be violent. If you have reason to think that the person may hurt themselves or others, do not approach, but call for professional help. There are sections of the Mental Health Act which enable professionals to go into someone’s house or to take charge of a situation in a public place.

How can I help if my friend or relative is displaying signs of mental distress

It can be difficult when a friend or relative suffers from mental distress. It can be painful to see them suffering and may disrupt life if you find yourself in a caring role you did not choose. However it can also bring people together giving them a chance to express love and affection in a way that has not been possible before. Ways in which you can help include:

  • supporting them and letting them know you are there to help
  • talking to them about what they feel would help, if they have experienced symptoms before they will know what does and does not help
  • offering practical help such as making a telephone call to a key worker or other person, or by going with the person to their General Practitioner (GP) or mental health centre
  • keeping yourself and the person focused on positive things and day to day realities rather than allowing yourself to get caught up in their distress.

What can I do if a friend or relative will not seek help?

Some people, even when experiencing severe mental distress may not ask for help and even reject any suggestion of help. Although you may be concerned, pressing them may make matters worse. You may need to make the decision to contact professionals, especially if you think that the person may be a danger to themselves or someone else. You can contact local social services to ask for a Mental Health Act assessment, which would involve two doctors and an approved mental health professional. An assessment may result in a person being taken to hospital against their will.

What can I do if it is an emergency?

If you or someone you know is suffering from an acute mental health crisis there are several things that you can do. You may need an emergency mental health assessment.

There are three main ways of having an emergency mental health assessment:

  • you can go to accident and emergency
  • phone the emergency number at the social services department of your local authority
  • if the police take you to a place of safety it may also be possible to get an emergency appointment with your General Practitioner (GP).

The assessment is carried out by three people, two doctors and one approved mental health professional. If you are refusing treatment it may lead to being admitted to hospital against your will or being ‘sectioned’.

There are some alternatives to hospitalisation which are community based. These include:

  • community mental health teams who provide mental health care in the community
  • crisis resolution teams who can provide rapid response following referral and intensive support afterwards.

Do I have to go to my General Practitioner (GP) to get help for mental distress?

Your GP is your first point of contact if you wish to access medical services either National Health Service (NHS) or private. Your GP can also refer you for talking treatments such as counselling. There are a number of private and voluntary organisations offering services that can help.

What treatments are there available for mental distress?

There are many different treatments for mental distress. There are also things people can do that can help themselves, and some of these can be accessed outside of the National Health Service (NHS).

Different activities that can be helpful for people recovering from mental distress include:

  • medication
  • talking treatments such as counselling, self-help groups and complementary therapies
  • change in lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise, spirituality, yoga, Tai-Chi, meditation, self-confidence or assertiveness courses

Kensington & Chelsea Emergency Mental Health Services and Resources

Single Point of Access Helpline: 0800 0234 650

Single Point of Access (SPA) provides a first point of contact for people wishing to access adult community mental health services in Brent, Harrow, Hillingdon, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster. Click here to download leaflet Email: [email protected]

The Single Point of Access offers mental health triage for routine, urgent and emergency referrals, information and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year.

People can refer themselves, or make enquiries on behalf of a family member or friend. The team will also take referrals from GPs, statutory services such as the police and London Ambulance service, and non-statutory services such as housing associations, as well as other professionals.

Emergency Social work Team – out of hours

Monday to Friday 5pm to 9am; 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday and public holidays Tel: 020 7373 2227


The Samaritans


Samaritans provide confidential, non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide.

Call: 116 123 (24 hous a day)