emergency and crisis situations

Though we hope emergency and crisis situations never arise, they do. There may be times when you have to deal with aggressive behaviour, are worried about your safety or aren’t able to locate your family member. Crisis and emergency situations are often confusing and frightening. There are things you can do to prepare and to respond when a situation occurs.

If your family member comes into contact with the law

If your family member has been arrested, you can contact your local police department (RCMP or Halifax Regional Police) to find out where they have been taken. If you feel that your questions and concerns are not being adequately answered, there is a sergeant on duty each shift that you could speak with. After an arrest, every person is given an opportunity to contact a lawyer within hours of their arrest. If your family member chooses to do so, a legal aide lawyer or private lawyer will contact your family member and follow through with the case. You can contact the public prosecution office for details about the court process and who your family member’s lawyer is. If you don’t think your family member is able to understand the court process or you believe your family member has been arrested as a result of actions relating to her illness, be sure to speak to her lawyer or to the prosecutor. In some cases, arrangements will be made for a psychiatric assessment, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis, at the East Coast Forensic Hospital.

If your family member is charged with a criminal offence, she will be asked to appear for a “booking.” Your family member’s fingerprints and photograph will be taken. This process may take up to several hours, and your family member may want to have you or someone else with her. Keep in mind that for the most part, there are no special considerations or exceptions for people living with mental illness. Your family member will receive the same treatment as others through the arrest and booking process, and until her lawyer goes before a judge to request a psychiatric assessment (if needed).

Resources to help:

The public prosecution service website has an excellent overview of how court proceedings work.

If your family member goes to the emergency department willingly, without being accompanied by police through the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act, she can leave the emergency department at any time. She is not obligated to stay. Emergency department staff are not obligated to try and prevent her from leaving.

In many situations, police are able to refer you to a service that your family member or you may need.

Preparing for emergency and crisis situations information.

In emergency situations it helps to have information available quickly and easily. Write down the names and numbers of friends, family members, neighbours and clergy who can offer support in an emergency or crisis. You may also note the names and phone numbers of your family member’s health professional(s), friends, acquaintances and employer(s). Keep the information together in one place, and be sure all of your family members know where to find it.

Emergency / Crisis Phone Numbers

Emergency (police, paramedics, fire dept.). 911
Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team 429-8167
Health professional 1 555-5555
Health professional 2 555-4444
Minister Bob Jones 555-6633
Best friend 555-2222
Partner 555-3355
Employer 555-8899
Halifax Regional Police missing persons line 490-5020


Together with your family members, make a plan for emergency and crisis situations. For instance, if you have young children, arrange for someone to care for them in the event of an emergency or crisis. Assign each family member responsibilities in the event of an emergency or crisis. A sample family crisis plan is included in the appendix.


Every crisis is an opportunity to learn – learn about what works and what doesn`t for your family member and for you. You may find it helpful to write down what triggered the crisis, how you and your family member responded and what you may do differently, if anything, next time. Are there contact numbers you wish you’d had? Did you ask the questions you wanted to? Is there something or someone that was particularly helpful? If you had a good experience with someone through an emergency or crisis situation, you may want to share this kindness; let them know how much you appreciated their help.


If your family member is experiencing a crisis and: