A crisis is a serious situation that can be a life-threatening experience. It can be triggered by an illness, a life change, or a combination of factors.
If you notice that your teenager is feeling depressed, anxious, or struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts and behaviors, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. This can be the first step toward a successful treatment plan that helps them through their mental health struggles.
1. A Comprehensive Mental Health Assessment
During the assessment, healthcare professionals will ask questions about a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This information is used to understand the cause of a person’s symptoms.
A doctor may also ask questions about their family history of mental illness and other factors that may contribute to the problems they are experiencing. They will then make a diagnosis and help the patient find the best treatment.
A mental health assessment can be a difficult time for a person, so it is important to have someone by their side. A friend or family member can explain their experiences and answer the doctor’s questions.
2. Engage the Family
When youth in crisis are referred to outpatient mental health programs, it is important for care providers to effectively engage families in the program’s goals and activities. Research shows that effective engagement and retention interventions can improve the outcomes of treatment.
Although the research on family engagement is relatively small, there are several general engagement approaches that have been shown to be effective: brief early treatment engagement discussions, family systems approaches, enhancing family support and coping, and motivational interviewing.
However, most of these studies tested engagement interventions in the context of outpatient clinic-based mental health programs serving children with conduct problems. Therefore, it is unclear whether these strategies are also effective in the longer-term prevention setting (Becker et al. 2002).
3. Identify Resources
When it comes to youth in crisis, it’s important to know your local resources. This can help you identify what needs your organization is working to address first, as well as which programs and services are most available in your community.
Often, a youth in crisis will be struggling with emotional or behavioral issues that are impacting their daily life. These can include a feeling of hopelessness, loss of sleep, or thoughts of suicide.
Risk factors for delinquency and violence can include chronic maltreatment or neglect, poverty, a disorganized school environment, and ready access to drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, some youth are able to overcome these challenges through a combination of protective factors, including healthy relationships with parents and other adults in their lives, a resilient temperament, and positive social outlets.
4. Create a Safety Plan
In a crisis, safety planning can help divert youth away from harmful actions like suicide. It can also protect them from being found by a potential perpetrator, and help them find support or referrals in times of need.
Creating a safety plan is a process that takes time, and involves working with the teen to identify their urges to harm themselves. The therapist can then make recommendations about what should be changed to create a safer environment.
The goal is to create a Safety Plan that the youth can own and use when they need it. It should be meaningful to them and include strategies they are willing to use.
5. Support the Youth
When a youth enters a facility in crisis, staff should have clear next steps for maintaining safety and access to individualized resources. This includes discharge planning with the family/caregiver and influencing the post-crisis treatment plan.
A youth in a crisis often has a very difficult time transitioning from their hospital stay to normal life, so it’s important to provide them with support as soon as possible. This can include assisting them with re-integration into school, connecting them with community groups and helping them identify long-term resources.
For youth in crisis, the most effective solutions may be found in their own schools or communities. These programs help youth build supportive relationships with their peers, teachers, and families, while teaching them coping skills and reducing stigma.