NAMI Sacramento, Sacramento's Voice on Mental Illness

Recognizing an Emergency

Families and friends sometimes have a difficult time making the hard decision to phone for emergency help when a family member or friend with a psychiatric disability is experiencing severe symptoms.  Sometimes the situation is clearly an emergency. Other times, it's not so clear, especially when a person's psychiatric disorder is emerging and/or family members and friends are inexperienced. Here are some guidelines.

It is an emergency if the ill person is:

  • Inflicting or attempting to inflict serious bodily harm on another.
  • Gravely disabled: unable to provide for own food, clothing, shelter to the extent that death, bodily injury or physical debilitation might result without treatment.
  • Attempting suicide or behaving as though he or she intends to follow through with verbal threats.
  • Mutilating or attempting to mutilate himself/herself.
  • Acutely distressed by hearing or seeing things which do not exist.
  • Expressing serious thoughts about hurting themselves or someone else.
  • Experiencing uncontrollable anxiety or anger.
  • Having a severe reaction to psychiatric medication.


source: NAMI Yolo/NAMI San Francisco


NAMI Sacramento cannot be held responsible for the use of the information we provide.
Please always consult a trained mental health professional before making any decision
regarding treatment of yourself or others.