How to Stage a Mental Health Intervention

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When people hear the word “intervention,” they typically think of a group of people getting together to confront a loved one about their drug or alcohol addiction. However, there are other conditions that sometimes require interventions, such as mental illness. With mental illness being even more widespread than addiction, it’s likely that you or someone you love struggles with a mental health condition. As a result, it is important to know how to stage a mental health intervention.

Mental illness is so common that 1 in every 5 Americans experiences a mental health condition each year. At the same time, 1 in every 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder.[1] Although there is no singular cause for mental illness, a number of factors including biology, genetics, childhood experiences, physical health, and trauma contribute to mental illness.

Unfortunately, whether mental illness is acute or chronic, symptoms may ebb and flow. For example, someone with depression may manage their condition well for several years, then suddenly begin battling suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, some people may have never experienced any symptoms before, and suddenly begin experiencing paranoia, hallucinations, or psychotic behaviors. It is in these cases and many more where a mental health intervention may become necessary.

How to Know When it is Time for an Intervention

Sometimes, mental health issues have the potential to escalate into dangerous or even tragic situations. People who suffer from mental health conditions often feel alone or isolated from others, so they struggle to ask for help. Moreover, mental health conditions affect the way people think about themselves and the world around them, so they may not believe they need or are worthy of help. Whatever the case may be, leaving mental illness untreated is extremely dangerous.

That being said, it isn’t always easy to know when a loved one is struggling – especially if the afflicted individual doesn’t reach out for help. As a result, it is often up to friends and family members to spot the signs of mental illness and encourage their loved one to seek professional help. Although the signs of mental illness vary depending on which specific condition a person has, general signs that it is time to stage a mental health intervention include:

  • Prolonged depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts that stop a person from living their day to day life.
  • Long-term social withdrawal that has resulted in unhealthy and isolating behaviors.
  • Making threats to harm oneself or other people.
  • A lack of self-care and personal hygiene.
  • Exhibiting psychotic, irrational, delusional, or violent behaviors.
  • Showing signs of self-harm (i.e. starving oneself, cutting oneself, etc.)
  • The person has started using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  • Experiencing sudden and vivid auditory and/or visual hallucinations.

Ultimately, preventing the worsening of a mental health condition comes down to investing in an early intervention that connects your loved one with the help they need.

Staging a Mental Health Intervention: Step by Step

Staging an intervention is never easy. You may not know what to say, how to react, or even what resources to offer your loved one. Moreover, you never know how your loved one will respond to the confrontation. He or she may be completely receptive. However, it is just as likely that he or she will be aggressive, irritated, and insistent upon refusing help. As a result, it is always recommended to hire a professional intervention specialist to help you through the process.

Hire an Intervention Specialist

Intervention specialists are trained in conflict resolution, mental health, and substance abuse. These individuals will guide you throughout the intervention process and help you connect your loved one with the help he or she needs. When a family member is suffering, it is easy to let emotions get in the way. Sometimes, you may feel like you are helping your family member when you are really hurting them. However, when you trust in a professional, they can guide you through the process to ensure that your mental health intervention is as successful and effective as possible.

Recruit Your Intervention Group

After you have hired an intervention specialist, it is time to consider who you want to be a part of the intervention. Intervention groups may consist of close family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and more. Virtually anyone who is involved in the individual’s life and cares about him or her can be involved in the intervention.

Educate, Prepare, and Rehearse

Now that you have a group of people who are prepared to help your loved one seek treatment, it is time to prepare and rehearse. Ultimately, the more prepared you and the other members are, the better the intervention will go. You and the other members may be instructed to write letters to your loved one outlining why you are concerned for them and what help you are offering. You may practice reading these letters and perfecting them until everyone in the group is prepared for the big event.

In addition to preparing for the intervention, group members should become educated about mental health. For example, if your loved one struggles with bipolar disorder, it is helpful to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of the condition. Education is the key to not only helping a struggling loved one but understanding what they are going through. Before you can truly help a struggling loved one, you have to be well-versed on the topic.

Pick a Time and a Place

Picking the right time and place for your meeting is another important aspect of the process. You want to pick a time when your loved one is not stressed out, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or preoccupied with other tasks or obligations. In addition, you will want to stage the mental health condition in a place that feels safe, secure, and private for the individual. A public restaurant, for example, is not the best place, whereas the comfort of the person’s home may be a better environment.

Holding an Intervention for Mental Illness

After time and dedication to preparing, holding the actual intervention can be a scary thing. After all, you never know what to expect. During the confrontation, it is important to stay calm and remember your original mission: to help improve the health and wellbeing of your loved one.

You and the other members of the group will take turns reading their letters and expressing their concerns to their afflicted loved one. Then, the intervention specialist will offer your loved one options for treatment, whether that be inpatient psychiatric care, a medication management plan, or weekly counseling sessions. The end goal is that the person in question will accept the help that is being offered. If your loved one accepts help, a plan should be ready to get them started with treatment right away.

Get Intervention Help Near You Today

Recovery from a serious mental health issue may be a long and tiring road ahead, but recovery is possible. People who seek mental health treatment after an intervention have access to professional therapists, evidence-based therapies, medication management strategies, and wellness plans that allow them to improve their overall wellbeing and cope with their symptoms. Getting professional treatment for mental illness can lead to improved quality of life, lower rates of self-harm and suicide, and an all-around happier, healthier life.

If you or somebody you know is battling a mental health crisis, don’t put off getting help. Mental illness is a serious condition that requires immediate clinical care. Contact us today to get connected with the most qualified intervention specialists in the tri-state area.



Medically Reviewed: August 17, 2020

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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