9 factors that can trigger a mental health crisis

The MIND 24-7 Team | October 6, 2023

Sometimes mental health emergencies can seem to happen by surprise. When this occurs, it may feel like a line of dominoes falls down without knowing what started the wave. But in many cases, a mental health crisis can be traced back to triggers. A trigger is something that starts or worsens symptoms. Knowing what to look out for can empower people to manage and prevent emergencies. In this guide, we highlight factors that can contribute to a mental health crisis and ways to prevent those triggers from leading to a crisis. 

1. Stressful life events 

Stressful life events include the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss or a move. These events can prompt strong negative thoughts and emotions and disrupt comfortable ways of life. Grief, loss and change can be really difficult for anyone to navigate, especially on their own. To prevent a stressful life event from leading to a mental health crisis, it’s important to spend time with close friends and family, prioritize healing and take care of oneself. 

2. Major life transitions

Any sort of major life transition, even a positive change, can make it difficult to cope with everyday challenges. Graduating from school, getting a new job or becoming a parent are all exciting events. But they mean moving from one segment of life to another. To prevent a major life transition from starting a mental health crisis, take time to grieve what is lost and celebrate what is gained. Be gentle to yourself and know that healing will come with time. 

3. Trauma or abuse

Past or recent experiences of trauma or abuse are some of the most common triggers of mental health crises. When someone experiences a tragic accident, disaster or any type of abuse, it’s important to get to a safe place and seek professional help. People who have experienced trauma or abuse can build resilience and heal with treatment and care. 

4. Physical health issues

Physical and mental well-being are closely related. Challenges such as chronic illness, disease and injuries strain the body. That often makes it more difficult to cope with mental and emotional challenges. To prevent physical health issues from triggering mental health crises, work on physical healing and celebrate small wins in the healing journey. 

5. Substance use

Substance use impacts the brain, influences mood and makes it more difficult to cope with challenges. As a result, risky situations can arise. To prevent substance use from triggering a mental health crisis, reduce the possibility of harm by keeping consumption to a moderate level, consuming only with other responsible individuals, and designating a sober person to drive or make other consequential decisions. If moderate consumption is not feasible or safe, choose sober experiences and consider getting professional help. 

6. Social media

Social media is a great way to connect with friends and family, stay current with news and explore areas of interest. However, excessive use of social media can be overwhelming. It can potentially put individuals at risk of bullying and increase opportunities for comparisons to others. Both of these can lead to depression or anxiety. Knowing when social media is too much can be difficult, but setting app time limits can help. Instead of scrolling, consider going on a walk, reading a book, picking up a hands-on hobby or actually calling a friend to chat. 

7. Isolation and loneliness 

Isolation and loneliness are significant contributors to mental health challenges. After all, humans are social creatures. Our well-being is closely tied to our relationships with others. Prolonged feelings of loneliness can lead to or worsen depression, reduce self-esteem, contribute to cognitive decline and make it difficult to manage emotions. To prevent isolation and loneliness from triggering a mental health crisis, seek out social connections.

8. Financial difficulties

Financial difficulties are a large source of stress for many people. Money trouble taps into fears about stability, safety and security. To prevent financial difficulties from triggering mental health crises, make and stick to a budget, seek job training and connect with community support. 

9. Oppression and marginalization 

Too many people experience oppression and marginalization. These take the form of discrimination, hostile environments, internalized stigma and shame, and limited access to opportunities and resources. Oppression and marginalization can lead to chronic stress and trauma that activates the body’s stress response system and leads to a range of physical and mental health issues. To prevent oppression and marginalization from triggering mental health crises, engage in advocacy and allyship efforts, seek community and peer support, and work to break the cycle of discrimination. 

Mental health crisis services

Need more support to overcome challenges and heal? Remember you are not alone and that it is okay to reach out for help. MIND 24-7 strives to make that easy. We currently have several locations open around the clock in the Phoenix area. Each clinic is staffed with licensed mental health clinicians who can see patients immediately. Our doors are always open.

For help with a mental health crisis plan and to get mental health care in minutes, visit one of our convenient locations or text/call 1-844-MIND247.