Critical Situation Cards

Mental Health America (MHA), American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) chapters, businesses, and organizations (NP and FP) from around the state and nation can purchase our critical situation cards and have them customized with their name and website information.  

Purchase Cards Here 

  1. Crisis Card - Do's and Don'ts
  2. Suicide Prevention card - Warning signs and how to approach
  3. Compassionate Communication card

All 3 cards are also available in Spanish.  Purchase price includes shipping costs.  If you need assistance at the card portal, please contact our vendor Mike Larkin at or  515-577-3750 

Compassionate Communication

  1. Guard your temper
  2. Focus on the person you know and love
  3. Provide reassurance generously and often

Download Compassionate Communication Card

Communicating with Someone in Crisis Who Has a Psychiatric Illness


  • GIVE THEM SPACE. Don't make them feel trapped.
  • BE CALM. Express support and concern.
  • AVOID sudden or quick movements.
  • BE HELPFUL. Respond to basic needs. Be low key.
  • "We are all here to help."
  • GIVE FIRM, CLEAR DIRECTIONS; One person should talk to the subject
  • RESPOND TO DELUSIONS OR HALLUCINATIONS by talking about the person's feelings rather than what he or she is saying.
  • LISTEN to their story
  • EXPLAIN POLICY, especially if handcuffed.


  • TAKE CONTROL if you don't have to.
  • ARGUE or reason with psychotic thinking.
  • STARE at the subject.
  • CONFUSE THE SUBJECT. One person should interact with the subject. Ask casual observers to leave. Follow through with directions or commands
  • TOUCH THE SUBJECT UNLESS NECESSARY. For people with mental illnesses it ay cause fear and lead to violence.
  • GIVE THEM MULTIPLE CHOICES. This can increase the subjects confusion.
  • DECEIVE the subject. Dishonesty increases fear and suspicion; the subject will likely remember it in any subsequent contact.
  • JOIN into behavior related to the person's mental illness
  • If a person has to be restrained, DON'T HOGTIE. Immediately raise him/her from prone into sitting position, monitor vital signs, and call for medical aid.

Download Crisis Card

Wallet size cards with the above information are available from the MindSpring office at 511 E. 6th St., Suite B Des Moines, IA, 50309.

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Writing notes or poems about death
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Deterioration in performance and daily life roles
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated, change in relationships
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings or sudden change in personality
  • Overt signs of depression (neglect of appearance, self-mutilation, crying, giving away items, visiting or calling people to say good-bye, etc.)

Is Someone At Risk for Suicide?  R-E-A-C-T calmly, with no drama

  • Recognize the signs of emotional suffering.
  • Express concern, offer support and listen nonjudgmentally.
  • Ask the question directly, in a private setting and stay calm
    • Are you having thoughts of suicide?
    • Are you thinking of killing yourself?
    • If the answer is yes, ask:                                                     

    - Have you decided how you are going to kill yourself?                                                                             

    -Have you decided when you would do it?       

    -Have you collected the things you need to carry out your plan? 

    • Care enough to keep the person safe. 

    -Do not leave them alone.

    -Do not use guilt or threats to stop suicide, such as: "You will go to hell" or "You will ruin other people's lives if you die by suicide!

    -Calmly listen.  Don't agree to keep it a secret.-Care enough to keep the person safe.

  • Text or call a number for extra support - get help now.
    Text:  741741
    Call:  1-800-273-8255 - Lifeline-or- Call 988 for assistance
    Call 911 for transport to professional help.

    Download Crisis Card

    Wallet size cards with the above information are available from the Mindspring office at 511 E. 6th St., Suite B Des Moines, IA, 50309.

    Iowa and National Help Lines and Hot Lines

    Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    Veterans Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    Drug and Alcohol Help Line  1-866-242-4111
    All are available 24 hours/day- 7 days/week