When a child is experiencing a mental health crisis, it is important to act quickly to ensure that the child receives the help necessary for their well-being. While this can be a frightening experience, a trained provider will be able to respond and meet your child’s needs.
What is a Crisis?
A mental health crisis can be triggered anytime the stress a child is experiencing exceeds their ability to cope. Situations that may precede a crisis include the loss of a loved one, witnessing a traumatic incident (such as a car accident), being victimized physically, sexually or emotionally, or experiencing a significant life change. Children who are already working through mental health issues or chronic medical conditions are more at-risk for mental health crisis.
Signs of a Mental Health Crisis
Although mental health crisis will present differently in every child, there are some typical signs and symptoms to be aware of. These include suicidal thoughts or displaying other warning signs of suicide, threatening to harm others, displaying signs of confusion, psychosis, anxiety or depression, or presenting with physical symptoms, including the inability to sleep or eat, tremors, or extreme fatigue. A child who is threatening to harm themselves or others, or a child who displays any behavior that indicates that their mental well-being is at-risk, should be assessed via a crisis intervention response.
Crisis Intervention Response – What to Expect
Initial Assessment: A child psychologist will meet with the child to first determine lethality risk (how likely it is the child may harm themselves or others). This will involve interviewing the child and determining their capability of carrying out a suicide or homicide attempt. If lethality risk is high, the psychologist will immediately take steps to ensure the child’s safety and the safety of others.
Stabilization: If lethality risk is low, the psychologist will further assess the child’s functioning and determine what will be necessary to stabilize them. Depending on the child’s needs, this may involve supportive verbal interventions, medication, or hospitalization.
Follow Up: All mental health crisis should be followed up on. This will allow a provider to continually assess the child’s condition, thereby ensuring that future episodes are prevented if possible. The child’s provider will share resources and referrals with you, and may set appointments for follow-up immediately after crisis intervention is delivered.