A Complete Guide to Mental Health Crisis

The MIND 24-7 Team | September 11, 2023

A mental health crisis is an overwhelming experience, typically an acute and temporary event, not a chronic condition. Many people experience mental health crises during their lifetime, and it is important to understand what to expect and how to get help. This guide discusses the average length and stages, how to de-escalate a mental health crisis and mental health services that can help someone get back to their life. 

What is the average duration of a mental health crisis?

There is no standard length of time for a mental health crisis. The duration varies from person to person and experience to experience. For some people, on some occasions, it may last just a few hours; for others, or at other times, it may last a few days or weeks. 

A few different factors contribute to the length of a mental health crisis. The underlying causes as well as the person’s condition, environment, coping skills, support system and access to treatment all contribute to the symptoms and duration of a mental health crisis. Both protective and risk factors influence the course of the crisis and healing. 

For example, a mental health crisis might be relatively short if it is prompted by a traumatic event and the person has immediate access to support and treatment to process and begin to cope. If someone lacks access to care, doesn’t have a support network, or is living with a severe and persistent mental illness, the mental health crisis may last longer. 

No matter how long or short a mental health crisis lasts, it’s essential to remember that crises are usually time-limited and can be addressed effectively with the proper treatment and support. 


What are the stages of a mental health crisis?

Understanding the stages of a mental health crisis can help people know what to expect and remember that recovery is possible. There are typically four stages to a mental health crisis. 

1. Pre-Crisis

The pre-crisis stage is the first indication of symptoms. The pre-crisis stage is commonly sparked by a trigger that reminds someone of a past trauma or incredibly stressful experience. The early signs might be observable by a friend or family member or they may be internal and invisible to others. 

2. Crisis

The crisis stage is when it is clear that intervention is needed. The way individuals experience crises varies from person to person. Typically, during a crisis, it is difficult for a person to function or conduct regular activities because they are overwhelmed by symptoms and stress. 

3. Response

The response stage is when action is taken while someone is experiencing a crisis. The response to a crisis varies from person to person. It may look like talking to a friend or family member or visiting an urgent psychiatric care center

4. Recovery

The recovery stage is when someone receives treatment and support and begins to heal. This stage varies widely depending upon the crisis and person. It is typically a time of resting, building upon strengths and connecting with resources. 

How to de-escalate a mental health crisis

Here are five ways to de-escalate a mental health crisis: 

  1. Respect personal space, maintain a safe distance and avoid touching the person in distress. 
  2. Listen by providing complete, undivided attention. Nod, ask follow-up questions, summarize to verify understanding, and do not interrupt or change the subject. 
  3. Empathize by showing genuine concern and desire to understand without judgment. 
  4. Communicate calmly and respectfully through tone and body language. Speak in a nonthreatening tone, keep body language neutral, and be mindful of hand movements and facial expressions. 
  5. Use silence to allow the person in crisis time to think and process before speaking. Do not rush to say something just to fill the void.

MIND 24-7 mental health crisis services

Remember, it’s okay not to be okay. 

Knowing you’re not alone is essential when experiencing a mental health crisis. It’s also important to get treatment as quickly as possible. We support people who are a threat to themselves or others, regardless of their ability to pay. We work to assess and stabilize patients so they can either go home or move to inpatient care—usually in less than 24 hours. 
Whether someone needs a friendly ear or doesn’t want to be alone, it’s important that they tell people what they need. And if more support is required, they should contact a mental health provider. We have ocations across the valley open around the clock with licensed mental health clinicians who can see patients immediately.