Mental Health and Substance Use Emergencies


A mental health or substance use emergency is any situation in which the child’s behaviors puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others and/or when the parent isn’t able to resolve the situation with the skills and resources available.

As with any medical emergency, a mental health or substance use emergency can be life threatening. Most of the time, mental health or substance use emergencies are those involving the threat of suicide or an actual suicide attempt. Other types of mental health or substance use emergencies may involve the threat of harm to another person. These are typically times of intense difficulty, trouble or danger.

Parents and caregivers should take suicidal thoughts or attempts seriously. Thoughts of killing or injuring someone are very serious too. Traumatic events, such as witnessing a murder or suicide, or being a victim of bullying or a violent crime can also cause a crisis for your child.

IF YOUR CHILD IS UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE, call the DPBHS 24-hour Child Priority Response (CPR) hotline in this kind of emergency: 1-800-969-4357

IF YOUR CHILD IS 18 YEARS OR OLDER and is in a mental health or substance use-related emergency, call the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s Crisis Intervention Services at 1-800-652-2929

NOTE: If your child is injured or is an immediate threat to hurt someone, call 911 before calling the DPBHS Mental Health/Substance Use Emergency hotline.

When you call the hotline, someone will ask you to provide:

  • Your child’s age , and
  • A description of the emergency situation.

The person on the phone will arrange an appropriate service response that could include verbal de-escalation of the situation, a meeting in your home or a meeting somewhere else if help is needed right away. 

If appropriate, a therapist will talk to you and your child and help you develop a safety plan. The Hotline worker will also assist you to obtain other mental health services if help is not needed immediately.

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