How to plan for a mental health crisis

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Health Assured team

06 December 2022

At Health Assured, we’ve seen a 45% increase in risk-associated calls to our helpline. In September alone, we were averaging 60 calls a day where risk was identified.

In the UK, one in four people experience a mental health problem each year. These psychological problems are often debilitating and impact every aspect of an individual’s life. If these problems persist, they can lead to more severe issues.

As an employer, you must assist your employees through these difficult times. In this article, we’ll look at how your organisation can create a mental health crisis plan to support your employees through a mental health emergency.

What is a mental health crisis?

A mental health crisis occurs when someone’s mental health is at a breaking point. It usually involves extreme stress or anxiety, which can, in severe cases, lead to suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

These emotions are often overwhelming, so those suffering often struggle to control the situation themselves and require urgent support.

Many factors can spur on a mental health crisis. For example, in a work setting, an employee may be unable to manage the pressures and expectations of an increased workload. Your organisation has a duty of care to provide active support that helps prevent your employees from feeling overwhelmed.

Why is planning for a mental health crisis important?

When a crisis strikes, it can be shocking and difficult to manage. Preparation and planning are essential for managing these highly stressful events. Putting plans in place ensures you're keeping your staff safe and following your obligations as an employer. 

How to recognise a mental health crisis

There may not always be a clear sign that an employee is dealing with mental illness. Due to the psychological nature of these issues, they are often invisible to the naked eye – making it difficult to know when someone is suffering.

To help with this, we have provided a list highlighting some of the common signs and symptoms associated with mental illness:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness 
  • Avoiding social activities 
  • Constant low energy 
  • Ignoring personal hygiene 
  • Drug or alcohol abuse 

The above is not an exhaustive list. Mental illness can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Nevertheless, mental health crises usually involve a clear and abrupt change in behaviour. As such, the above list provides some examples of what you might expect to see in someone who is in or approaching a crisis.

How to plan for a mental health crisis?

When responding to a crisis, you must remember that each employee is unique. Do not assume that every mental health-related problem has the same solution.

It is necessary to create a diverse plan. While you can never know exactly how an employee will respond, the more all-encompassing your crisis plan, the more likely you are to provide the necessary assistance. To help your organisation, we have provided suggestions on how you can manage or potentially prevent a crisis.

How to help someone through a mental health crisis

There are a variety of approaches you can take when an employee is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Most importantly, if you suspect a member of staff might be having suicidal thoughts you must encourage them to get help. If you need to, contact their GP, the Samaritans or other mental health services.

In certain instances, they may refer the employee for a mental health crisis assessment. During this evaluation, the professional will offer a clear explanation of what’s happening and how they can help. They’ll ask questions about their life experiences and previous or ongoing mental health issues.

You should consider formulating a mental health crisis plan for non-life-threatening situations. It’ll include your organisation’s approach to supporting employees during a crisis.

Creating a crisis plan for your organisation

Even if you prepare for a mental health crisis, you may still face some problems. It is, therefore, necessary to have a detailed written plan in place for employees to follow if a mental health crisis does arise. 

When creating a crisis plan, you must involve your employees throughout the process. This involvement will help them understand how your organisation deals with such issues. Here are a few ideas of what to include in your crisis support policy:

  • Do not put yourself at risk. While your colleague may be suffering, you must not put yourself in danger. 
  • Assess the risk of the employee: does the employee need immediate assistance from emergency services? Or would services provided by a walk-in centre be more appropriate? You must ask these questions to ensure your employee gets the necessary support.
  • Contact the emergency services or employee’s emergency contact to take them to A&E or the appropriate health service.
  • Stay with the employee until the appropriate support arrives.
  • Debrief with the other colleagues involved in the crisis or anyone who may have been affected. 

It is a good idea to share the safety plan - distributing it throughout your workplace. It will ensure that if any employee recognises that one of their colleagues is undergoing a crisis, they can respond appropriately.

Mental Health Training

Another strategy includes providing mental health training to your employees. It may involve crisis intervention training – enabling employees to give immediate, short-term counselling to prevent a critical emotional incident from worsening. While this support does not solve the problem, it can help provide additional time for the necessary measures. 


Supporting your employees through a mental health crisis can be extremely stressful. Nevertheless, by creating a plan, you aren't wasting anyone's time - these plans are put in place to create a safe environment where your employees can feel comfortable and supported.

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