“Remain calm”Easy to say, tough to do when things fall apart.

Anything from a minor fender bender to a full blown “something really bad” can send us into a state of crisis, sometimes at the drop of a hat.

What is the definition of being in crisis? In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily to a traumatic situation or event, but to a person’s reaction to an event. One person might be deeply affected by an event while another individual suffers little or no ill effects.
A crisis presents an obstacle, trauma, or threat, but it also offers an opportunity for either growth or decline. (Read more on defining crisis here) I would like to report I am better now about how I react to a crisis than I was in years past about navigating crisis. But you know how that goes. One simple utterance and the next thing we know, something even worse than we could ever imagine is standing right in front of us. So, I will keep that thought and those words to myself.

Some days it feels like we are floating along and managing, while others feel like our whole world is falling apart. Right now, as I write this, there are people marching and protesting in my city – and maybe your city too – about a black man in crisis who was shot down within minutes by the police who were called upon to help him. This story is happening all over our country. I would like to say that many of us are in a state of community crisis and some of us have that spilling into our personal lives.


Here are some steps to take “When Crisis Calls”*:

*Note: these tips are geared towards those living in the general San Diego/Southern California area. If you are living outside this geographic region, please consider checking into the mental health resources within your city. Certainly, there is a need for getting the word out to your community. Consider a grass roots effort by sending a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper and asking to have your letter published as a way of offering tips and tools as a resource for your community members dealing with a mental health crisis.

  1. Call 911, AND:
  2. When you are on the phone with 911, request they send an officer who has been trained by the PERT Team. (San Diego and Southern CA area) PERT stands for Psychiatric Emergency Response Team. PERT pairs licensed mental health clinicians with uniformed law enforcement officers/deputies. More info can be found here. *NOTE: If you call 911 and ask for the PERT Team to come and you are told it is after hours, or no one is available now, ask for a PERT trained police officer to accompany the team who will answer the call.
  3. Call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at 888-724-7240 (24/7 service provider in all languages)
  4. For children and youth under the age of 18 needing emergency psychiatric evaluation in the Central San Diego area, contact the Emergency Screening Unit (ESU) at (619) 421-6900 (24/7 service provider).
  5. For youth ages 4-17, in the North County area of San Diego, contact the North County Crisis Intervention and Response Team at (760) 233-0133. Hours of service are M-F 12-8 PM and Sat 12-5 PM.
  6. The Emergency Medication Clinic will assist with one-time emergency medication refills by appointment during their clinic hours M/W/F 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM. Call (619)397-6900 to set up an appointment. County Health Services will then need to ensure a follow up appointment has been made with the Primary Care Physician for medication management.
  7. Download the oscER app on your smartphone or tablet device. oscER is a navigational guide and support companion in a mental health crisis, and provides you with resources and information on how to prepare for, handle and recover from an emergency. Learn more here.
  8. Call the NAMI San Diego Helpline M-F 9am – 5pm at 619-543-1434 OR 800-523-5933.
  9. When you have a bit more time after the crisis has passed, sign up for a FREE education class. NAMI’s Family to Family Class – sign up at f2f@namisd.org or call 888-523-5933.

Please do not disregard the idea of reaching out to friends and family to talk about the crisis and how you’re feeling. It really does help and can make all the difference in how you cope with the situation.

Do you have other tips that have come to mind that you think should be included? If so, please feel free to respond to this post by leaving a comment. I will make sure your suggestion is added to the list. And… thank you!

  • by Valerie Hebert, CYFL Coordinator