Mental health emergency - if you're in crisis or despair

If your mental or emotional state quickly gets worse, or you’re in crisis or despair, it's important to get help quickly. You’re not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is sometimes the first step to recovery.

Help and support

Someone who’s having suicidal thoughts may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want help and support. It can be difficult finding the words to express what they are feeling.

If you're concerned about someone, you could:

  • show you care by asking saying something like: 'I’m worried about you and I want to help' 
  • discuss suicide – asking about it won’t put the idea in people’s heads. You could ask then: ‘Do you feel like harming yourself?’ or ‘Do you feel like ending your life?’
  • call for help and encourage them to look for help. You could say: ‘You are not alone and there are people who can help you out of this situation’ or ‘I will stay with you until you get help’

Recognising potential warning signs

Suicide prevention begins with recognising warning signs that someone may be considering taking their own life. The signs include:

  • talking about death or suicide
  • pre-occupation with death
  • depression
  • hopelessness
  • alcohol and drug misuse
  • low self-esteem
  • bereavement
  • relationship break-up
  • changes in behaviour
  • previous history of suicide attempts
  • self-loathing or self-hatred
  • getting affairs in order
  • social isolation
  • self-destructive behaviour
  • sudden sense of calm or appearing very upbeat following depression

Don't avoid talking about suicide. Discussing suicide in an open, non-judgmental, sensitive, discreet and practical way can allow someone in crisis to know they aren't alone and help is available.

Your care plan

If you have a care plan, there are names and numbers to contact in an emergency. If you were or are being treated for a mental illness, you should have a care plan.

Where to go for help

If you don't have a care plan, or can't find it, you could:

  • make an emergency appointment with your doctor, or call your doctor's surgery out-of-hours service if the emergency is at night or the weekend
  • call your mental health worker if you have one
  • go to the accident and emergency department at your local hospital

Mental health crisis team

All trust areas have a mental health crisis team with psychiatric nurses, social workers and support workers. They:

  • carry out mental health assessments
  • provide support and short-term help until another team is available or the help is no longer needed

You can ask your GP or the GP out of hours service about the mental health crisis team for your area. 

If you're caring for someone

If you're caring for someone, there are support services that can help. 

If they're in immediate danger, telephone the police on 999.

If you need someone to talk to

If you want to talk about how you feel or how you deal with someone else's behaviour, you can speak to a friend, family member or your GP.


If you or someone you know needs help, you can telephone Lifeline free at any time. Lifeline is a crisis response helpline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to people in Northern Ireland. It offers immediate help over the telephone if you, or someone you know, is in distress or despair.

The Samaritans

The Samaritans offer a 24-hour telephone helpline:

  • telephone: 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply)
  • National telephone:116 123 (this number is free to call)
  • textphone: 08457 90 91 92

You can also contact them by email or post.


If you're under 19, you can contact Childline:

More useful links

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