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What to Do if Your Teen is Having a Mental Health Emergency

What to Do if Your Teen is Having a Mental Health Emergency

Woman puts arm around son as he struggles with a mental health emergency

Handling a mental health emergency in your teen can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. At Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness (MCAW), we understand the urgency and gravity of such situations. Our goal is to provide you with clear, practical steps to help manage a mental health crisis and ensure your teen receives the care they need. While our center doesn’t offer crisis care, our outpatient adolescent treatment programs can help post-crisis. Contact MCAW at 855.940.6229 today. 

Recognizing a Mental Health Emergency 

A mental health emergency occurs when a teen is in immediate danger due to severe mental health symptoms. Recognizing the signs early can save lives. Common indicators include: 

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions 
  • Severe anxiety or panic attacks 
  • Extreme agitation or violent behavior 
  • Uncontrollable self-harm 
  • Psychotic symptoms (hallucinations, delusions) 
  • Inability to perform daily activities due to overwhelming distress 

Understanding these signs can help you act quickly and effectively. 

Immediate Steps to Take 

If you suspect your teen is experiencing a mental health emergency, take the following steps immediately: 

  1. Contact emergency services – Dial 911 if your teen is in immediate danger or requires urgent medical attention. Emergency responders are trained to handle mental health crises and can provide necessary intervention. 
  2. Seek medical attention – If the situation is less acute but still requires prompt professional evaluation, visit the nearest emergency room. 
  3. Stay calm and supportive – While waiting for help, remain as calm and reassuring as possible. Your demeanor can influence your teen’s state of mind. 

Ensuring your teen’s safety is the top priority. While seeking professional help, keep in mind that staying calm and supportive can make a significant difference.  

What to Do While Waiting for Help 

While waiting for emergency services or transportation to a medical facility, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Create a safe environment – Remove any objects that could be used for self-harm, such as sharp items, medications, or firearms. 
  • Communicate calmly – Speak in a soothing tone, offering reassurance and expressing empathy. Avoid confrontational language or actions. 
  • Stay with your teen – Don’t leave them alone. Your presence can provide comfort and prevent escalation. 

These actions can help stabilize the situation until professional help arrives or you can get to an emergency care or community care center. 

Long-Term Management and Support 

After the immediate crisis has passed, it’s important to engage in long-term management and support to prevent future emergencies. MCAW offers several programs designed to provide ongoing care: 

  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP) or day programming 
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP) 
  • Aftercare program 

Continuous care is essential for long-term recovery and stability. 

Therapeutic Approaches at MCAW 

Our center utilizes a variety of evidence-based therapies tailored to each teen’s unique needs: 

  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) 
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) 
  • Family therapy 
  • Holistic therapy 
  • Mindfulness meditative therapy 
  • Music therapy 
  • Expressive art therapy 

These therapies aim to address the root causes of mental health issues and equip teens with coping skills. 

Preventive Measures and Early Intervention 

Preventing mental health emergencies involves proactive measures and early intervention. Regular mental health check-ups, which involve routine visits to a mental health professional, can catch issues early. Open communication is also crucial; encourage your teen to talk about their feelings and experiences.  

Additionally, teaching and practicing stress management techniques such as relaxation methods, mindfulness, and healthy lifestyle habits are important. Education and awareness can significantly reduce the risk of crises. 

Contact MCAW After a Crisis for Continued Care 

If your teen is experiencing a mental health emergency, don’t hesitate to seek immediate help. Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness is here to support you every step of the way. For more information or assistance, call 855.940.6229 or contact us online.