Mental Health Emergency

Get Immediate Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency or is in a life threatening situation, call 9-1-1 and say: “I'm calling about a mental health emergency and request a CIT (Crisis Intervention Trained) Officer.”

We all want to protect the people we love, but sometimes we cannot do it on our own. If a family member or friend is in a mental health crisis and at risk of harming themselves or others, call the police - even though you or your family member may be upset or afraid - to help ensure everyone’s safety.  Below are guidelines on how to call 9-1-1 for a mental health emergency.

If you are concerned about someone who may be heading into a mental health crisis and need help, call:


Guidelines for Calling 9-1-1

Click each section to expand.

Plan Ahead

  • Be prepared: Become familiar with the guidelines on this page.
  • Know to Ask for a Crisis Intervention Trained Officer (CIT): When you call 9-1-1, ask to have a CIT Officer dispatched if available as these officers are specially trained to respond to mental health emergencies.
  • Fill out the Information From Family Member form:  Complete this form (English, Spanish) ahead of time.  Send one copy to their mental health provider and keep extra copies on hand to give to hospital personnel if a mental health emergency occurs. The Information from Family Member form provides hospital personnel and mental health providers with important detailed information on your family member or friend’s mental health history. To request the form by mail or for questions about the form,  call 1-800-388-5189.
  • Be prepared for a 5150 Hold: If your family member or friend is a danger to themselves or to others or is gravely disabled and unable to care for themselves, it may be necessary to place them on an involuntary hospital hold of up to 72 hours for additional help and evaluation.
  • Find your closest Emergency Room: If you are able to safely drive your loved one before or during an emergency, go to your nearest Emergency Room for help. Psychiatric Emergency Services in San Mateo County include:

San Mateo Medical Center
222 West 39th Ave., San Mateo, CA, 94403
Phone: (650) 573-2662

Mills-Peninsula Medical Center
1501 Trousdale Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010
Phone: (650) 696-5915

Before Calling 9-1-1

  • Know your rights: If the individual is putting you or themselves in danger, police need to step in and help. You have the right to ask for help and your loved one has a right to receive help.
  • Try to remain calm: Take a few deep breaths so you can speak as slowly and calmly as possible.
  • Remove harmful items: If possible, remove any items from the immediate area that could be used as a weapon, such as fire arms, knives, tools, or baseball bats.
  • Information from Family Member form (English, Spanish): If possible, complete this form prior to a crisis. Provide a copy to hospital personnel (to request the form by mail, call 1-800-388-5189).

During the Call

Try to make the call from a safe and quiet place where your family member or friend will not feel threatened by overhearing you.

  • Tell police you are calling about a mental health emergency and request a CIT officer.
  • Describe the situation in detail, such as whether your loved one is suicidal, aggressive, off their medication, or threatening someone.
  • Listen carefully and answer the dispatcher’s questions so they have the information to help.
  • Stay on the phone  - emergency help is being dispatched. Do not hang up until you are asked to do so by the dispatcher.

What to Say When Calling 9-1-1

  • I’m calling about a Mental Health Emergency and request a CIT Officer.
  • My name is:______________________.
  • I’m calling from [your location].
  • I’m calling because my [family member/friend] is: ___________________.
  • Describe in detail what is going on right now.
  • Advise police if there is information on file with law enforcement about the person in crisis.
  • Ask if it’s possible to arrive without lights or sirens.

The 9-1-1 dispatcher will ask about the following: (be clear and brief)

  • Are there any acts or threats of violence?
  • Are there any weapons involved?
  • Where is the person experiencing the emergency located?
  • Has there been a suicide attempt or has the person made threats of suicide?

Once the dispatcher has this information, share the following about your loved one:

  • The person's mental health condition/diagnosis and mental healthcare provider
  • Whether the person is intoxicated or overdosed
  • Any medications the person is taking
  • Whether the person is gravely disabled and unable to care for themselves

When the Officer Arrives

  • Tell them what you’ve seen and heard—stick to the facts.
  • Explain what is happening now.
  • Let them know what has and has not worked in the past.
  • If the person in crisis is being transported, find out where.
  • Ask the police officer for their contact information for follow up.

Get Help Before or After an Emergency

  • Suicide/Crisis Line: If you or someone you know is not in a life threatening situation but has shown signs of being suicidal or in emotional distress, call a confidential trained crisis counselor in your area, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the Suicide Crisis Line toll free 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 650-579-0350, or visit (crisis chat available at specific times). Find more resources available at:
  • Crisis Text Line: Provides free confidential 24/7 emotional support and infomation to people in any type of crisis. Text “START” to 741741. Learn more at
  • Crisis Plans: Develop a personal Crisis Plan to be used when you need others to take over responsibility for your care and a Post Crisis Plan to let others know when you are no longer in crisis. Find more information available here.
  • Concerns about an adult family member: Is your family member (age 18+) showing signs or symptoms of serious behavioral health challenges?  Call the Family Assertive Support Team (via Cassia House) in San Mateo County for assistance at 650-368-3178.
  • Concerns about a child or teen:  A youth-teen focused hotline is available 24/7, to support parents, educators, counselors, doctors, coaches, and members of the community in San Mateo County. Call or text the Child and Adolescent Hotline & Prevention Program Hotline at: 650-567-KIDS (5437).
  • County Mental Health and Substance Use Services:  If you or someone you know can benefit from mental health or substance use services, call San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Access Call Center and get information about services, assessment, and referrals: 1-800-686-0101, TDD: 1-800-943-2833.
  • Community Mental Health and Substance Use Services:  Find services and resources available in San Mateo County at:
  • Alcohol & Drug Helpline: 650-573-3950
  • Privately Insured? Contact your carrier to learn about coverage options and mental health services available to you through your health insurance plan.
  • Peer Support and resources including wellness centers and peer-run organizations: BHRS Office of Consumer and Family Affairs 1-800-388-5189
  • Support, education and advocacy for families: NAMI-SMC -National Alliance on Mental Illness San Mateo County 650-638-0800.
  • Local police department:  Find the non-emergency phone number for your local police department and record on the brochure tear off and/or wallet card.

Printed Guidelines For Calling 9-1-1


Mental Health Emergency Guidelines for Calling 9-1-1 Brochure - English
Mental Health Emergency Guidelines for Calling 9-1-1 Brochure - Spanish
Mental Health Emergency Guidelines for Calling 9-1-1 Brochure - Tagalog
Mental Health Emergency Guidelines for Calling 9-1-1 Brochure - Chinese

Quick Reference Wallet Card

Quick Reference Wallet Card - English
Quick Reference Wallet Card - Spanish
Quick Reference Wallet Card - Tagalog
Quick Reference Wallet Card - Chinese

(recommend printing at "actual size")

Information from Family Member form

English Version
Spanish Version



Order Print Materials

Printed brochures and wallet cards are available at no cost for distribution to the San Mateo County Community.  If you are a provider/partner, agency, community-based organization, community group, or other similar entity, and would like to order materials to distribute to clients, patients, family members, staff, students, colleagues or members of the community, please complete the order form.