top of page

First Aid for Acute Psychosis

If You or Someone You Know is in Crisis and Needs Immediate Help

If You or Someone You Know are Thinking about Self Harming or Attempting Suicide

Call 988, Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or 911


How to Tell Whether a Young Person is Having Acute Psychosis

A person who is suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder has the potential developing acute psychosis symptoms. Drug intoxication can also be a cause for a normal individual in developing acute psychosis symptoms. Acute psychosis symptoms vary from person to person: 

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations

  • Disorganized thinking 

  • Odd behaviors

  • Difficulty distinguishing reality 

  • Suicidal behavior 

  • Homicidal behavior

  • Aggression 

(From Mental Health First Aid USA)

There are many other potential causes for individual suffering from previous psychological disorder developing acute psychosis symptoms as well: 

  • Discontinues on their regular medication, by accidentally or on propose ..

  • Extra stress in life, such as holiday, new environment..

  • Traumatic event, such as car accident, sudden death, news ..

  • Medical condition 

How to Assist

An individual who is having acute psychosis episode is "out of reality", which can be unstable and unpredictable. This can be challenging for the first aider. Safety is priority, if you feel your safety or the individual's safety is in jeopardy, call 911. Your primary task is to de-escalate the situation. (If you are unable to de-escalate, you should consider others for assistance, such as law enforcement or EMS)  If you do not know the individual, you should introduce yourself and your intention in the situation. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, you should keep distance from the individual before you are absolutely certain that the individual is not a threat to you or other bystander. You should also make sure you have access to an exit at all time. 

Difficulty distinguishing reality, delusions and hallucinations are the primary symptoms. It's very important to tell help them distinguish between reality and their hallucinations. It's okay for the individual to disagree with you. Do not argue with the individual. Some individual might present retrograde amnesia, it is very important for your to be patient and repeat the reality to them. 

Suicidal behavior and aggression are also very common symptoms. It's also very important to assess the risk and safety for you and the individual. Suicidal first aid and Aggressive behavior first aid can be considered, if such behaviors present, 911 should be summoned immediately. You should closely observe the individual's behavior and symptoms, and relate such information to the emergency responders and metal health professionals. Only describe the person's behaviors, do not attempt to make any diagnosis. 

Assess whether it is safe for the person to be alone; if not, ensure that someone stays with them. Try to find out whether the young person has someone they trust (e.g., close friends or family) and try to enlist their help. If the young person says they have no one they trust, you may need to contact their parents or another caregiver against the young person's wishes. If this becomes necessary tell the young person whom you are calling and explain that it is for their own safety and that you care about them.

(From Mental Health First Aid USA)

When helping a young person experiencing psychosis. you should

  • Communicate to the person in a clear and concise manner, and use short, simple sentences.

  • Speak quietly in a nonthreatening tone of voice and at a moderate pace.

  • Answer any questions calmly.

  • Comply with reasonable requests, which gives the person the opportunity to feel somewhat in control.

  • Respect the person's culture by exhibiting verbal and physical behaviors that demonstrate this respect.

  • If the young person has a safety or crisis plan. follow those instructions.

(From Mental Health First Aid USA)

bottom of page