Help for Someone I Care About

Calling for Help

Calling for Help

What to Say When You Call

Tell the call center that this is a mental health crisis, especially if you’re calling 911.

Give this information as needed: 

  • Your name and phone number
  • Who you are calling about: The person’s name, age, gender, appearance
  • Where is the person right now?
  • Weapons involved? Be specific.
  • What is the person doing now? Give details on what you see and hear
  • Has the person been in crisis before? In mental health hospital?
  • The person’s mental health clinic or provider name (if they have one)
  • Risk or history of harm to self, others or property?
  • Changes in sleep, appetite, job, mood, or behavior


  • Try your best to remain calm
  • Listen and care
  • Ask how you can help
  • Offer choices
  • Move slowly and explain what you are doing
  • Stay at arm’s length or further if you feel unsafe
  • Give them space to leave the room


  • Stare at the person
  • Criticize what they say or do
  • Try to argue or reason with them
  • Order them to do something

What happens next?

First responders may be mental health crisis workers, law enforcement, trained CIT officers or paramedics.[1]

  • Ask how long it will take first responders to come
  • Prepare to wait safely
When first responders arrive, allow them to be in charge, not you.
Their job is to protect safety, calm the person and decide next steps.

Crisis workers may do an assessment at the scene. Law enforcement may provide transport to a crisis center or emergency room (ER).

Your role is to help the person get the right care.

Prepare to repeat what you have told the call center and give more information if asked:

  • Diagnosis, medications, provider name(s), hospital, or crisis center stays
  • Any past violence or suicide attempts


In a clear, respectful way, explain what you would like to happen.
Work with first responders. Do not argue.

You can take the person to a crisis center...

if you feel safe and first responders cannot come soon.

Types of crisis centers:

  • Crisis Walk-in Center
  • Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU)
  • Crisis Respite
  • Hospital emergency room (ER) or emergency department (ED)

What to take to ER/ED:

  • List of current medications, medical records or Portable Treatment Record
  • History of violence or self-harm
  • Notes on recent behavior
  • Things to pass the time like games, music, snacks

If assessment takes place at the scene, first responders may:

  • Ask the person if they will go to a hospital or crisis center of their own free will as a voluntary admission.
  • Take the person to hospital for an exam even if they don’t want to go: emergency detention, 6-401, or involuntary detention.[2]
  • Assess whether the person is at high enough risk for a Certificate of Need (CON) for involuntary admission. First responders may call this a 6-404.[3]
  • Leave the person with you if risk is not high enough for hospital care. If so, first responders may link the person to other services.

Transportation to Crisis Care

If the person needs to be assessed at an emergency room or crisis center, you can offer to take them if first responders agree, the person will go with you, and you decide it is safe to do so.

Restraints: The person may be restrained during the trip if first responders take them to the crisis center or hospital. This is for safety, not because they have done anything wrong. A sheriff’s deputy or police officer is likely to use handcuffs. A mental health or medical transport worker may use soft restraints.

TIP: Ask where exactly the person is being taken. See Health Privacy, Confidentiality to learn how you can share information with the hospital.


If the person is left with you, it gets worse, and you don’t feel safe: CALL 911 or Crisis: 855-274-7471

Responders can come again if necessary.

Law Enforcement Wait

An officer transporting to an emergency room may have to wait a long time until the person is assessed.

An officer transporting to a crisis center other than an emergency room can typically leave within 5-10 minutes.

An officer or deputy transporting to a treating hospital must wait up to 1 hour and 45 minutes for a second exam to be completed. If the person is released within that time the officer must drive them back to their county (§ 33-6-406).

[1] Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a partnership of trained law enforcement officers with mental health professionals, available in some communities.
[2] § 33-6-401 and § 33-6-402 are state laws on taking a person for a mental health exam without their consent.
[3] § 33-6-404 is state law on the first Certificate of Need for involuntary commitment. The law only allows admission without consent if a doctor at the admitting hospital files a second Certificate of Need (33-6-105).