But it can be intimidating to get started. Below you'll find some resources related to mental health services to make the process a little easier.
For Emergency Situations
If you think your child could be a danger to themselves or others or you or a member of your family is experiencing a crisis, get help immediately:
Go to your nearest emergency room*
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
Crisis Text Link (text “HOME” to 741741)
*The findERnow app from the Emergency Medicine Network (EMNet) can help you find the closest ER. It’s available for free from Google Play and at the App Store. ERs that are equipped to provide emergency care for children are marked with a dark blue baby icon.
Tip: Clearly state that this is a mental health crisis so the police or the ER nurse can handle the situation appropriately. Many communities have crisis intervention team (CIT) programs that train police officers to handle and respond safely to psychiatric crisis calls, so ask the 911 operator for a CIT officer, if possible.
Your local ER is very familiar with crisis support situations. If you or your child is in the midst of a crisis, ERs have experienced people who can help guide you through the process of figuring out what to do.
While you can’t predict when an emergency will happen, you can be prepared, as it may be harder to share critical health information with emergency care providers if you’re in the middle of a crisis.
It can be helpful to store information in a secure online patient health record that you can share with your primary care doctor and emergency contact person (whom you will want to identify and inform ahead of time).
For Non-Life-Threatening Crisis Situations
Different counties have different levels of crisis support — some even have drop-in crisis centers.
How do I get information about the nearest resources?
To get more information on the resources close to you, contact:
Your local ER
Your primary care physician's office
An outpatient therapist’s office
Your city or county website
Findahelpline.com to identify the helpline(s) most applicable to your situation
Who do I call or text?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-hour emergency crisis workers: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) This toll-free, confidential call will be routed to your nearest crisis center in the Lifeline network.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline:1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746
Mental Health America's 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-888-724-7240
Tip: It’s best to identify these resources before a crisis so you have the numbers handy if you need them. Check out our post on how to create a personal health record so you're prepared ahead of time.
How will they help me?
If/when you call, you’ll be connected to a crisis worker who understands that this is a difficult call to make and will help you work through the immediate crisis and recommend next steps. Most offer triage, screening, preliminary counseling, and referral services. In extreme cases, they may refer you to the ER, offer to send a specialist to your home to help in-person, or arrange transport for psychiatric admission.
General Mental Health Services
For more general information about mental health or to find mental health services or treatment options in your area, you can contact:
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727), M-F, 8 a.m.-8 p.m
NAMI's Top Helpline Resources
Mental Health America's Resources
Child Mind Institute's Resources to Recovery
If you have insurance, you may want to start by reaching out to your provider for a list of names of experts in and around your area.
Many insurance companies, employers and health care institutions offer private electronic health information tools (called patient portals) you can use to store this information securely, as well. You’ll want to handle their emergency health information in a similar way.
What if I don’t have insurance?
If you don’t have insurance, there are experts who can help you figure out how to get the services you need. You can reach out to a local services agency or a where and how to get additional support federally qualified health center, which is federally funded community-based healthcare. Most counties have a central office you can access through their website that coordinates all of the mental health services in your county. They can help you identify people you can talk to and work through payment and insurance challenges.
The bottom line: Always reach out to professionals if you’re concerned. Asking for help is a sign of profound strength.
Telehealth mental health services saw a huge rise in popularity during the pandemic. There are many great options for meeting with professionals on a remote basis, which may make it easier for you to access the right care. One option is Little Otter, a mental health care company centered around improving access to quality mental health care for kids and families.
Meditation & Mindfulness
As you probably know, there are a lot of meditation and mindfulness apps out there.
Here are some free apps we think might be helpful:
All of them offer paid subscriptions for access to more content and provide some combination of meditations, videos on mindful movement, sleep stories, calming music, and masterclasses from experts if you want to take a deeper dive.
If you’re interested in meditation specifically, you may want to check out Tara Brach’s* guided meditations or podcasts.
Little Renegades has a wonderful collection of Mindful Kids Cards to help you start teaching your kids (and possibly yourself) how to be more present through simple, thoughtful exercises. You and your child can pick a card at random and then follow simple mindful exercises that help both of you tap into basic techniques like awareness, breathing, meditation, gratitude, and stretching.
It’s also worth visiting their Mindfulness page, as it gives a great overview of what it’s all about (including some history on the movement).
Advocating for Kids’ Mental Health
If you’re interested in advocacy work, we wholeheartedly support efforts to overcome mental health stigmatization.
For more information on how you can help or get involved, here are a few of the organizations we think are worth checking out:
Mental Health America’s Youth Mental Health
Children’s Mental Health Matters (a Maryland public awareness campaign)
*Please note: The authors have no business or financial connections with the company and resource suggestions.
All information on this website, including resources, are suggestions for self-help steps and are not a substitute for medical advice or care.
Much of this information was adapted from the Mayo Clinic, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Mental Health America websites.