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New App Can Help Community Members Experiencing Mental Health Crisis

By Christopher Seeley, MSW, American Psychiatric Association Foundation

Sometimes the symptoms of an individual’s mental illness can impact their ability to make decisions about getting the treatment they need. A psychiatric advance directive (PAD) is a legal document that individuals can use to make a plan before a crisis occurs to help ensure that their needs and preferences for care are known. A PAD also allows the individual to identify a surrogate decision-maker through a health care power of attorney. 

PADs can provide valuable information for health care professionals and law enforcement officers. However, these documents are often written down on paper, meaning that they may not be readily available when an individual with a mental illness may need them most. A new free app called My Mental Health Crisis Plan offers a step-by-step process to create a PAD and keeps the information readily accessible. The app was created by SMI Adviser, a program of the American Psychiatric Association and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  

My Mental Health Crisis Plan enables individuals to create a new PAD or upload an existing one. After developing the PAD independently or with their psychiatrist or other mental health professional, users may then share it with family members and loved ones, mental health professionals, and others on their care team. If a person is in crisis, they can use the app to send out an alert message. This not only informs loved ones of their need for support but indicates that it is time for that person’s care team to spring into action. And as more people create PADs, asking about this legal document can become a part of the conversation when law enforcement officers respond to mental health crises.   

Counties can look at this app as a new tool to share with community behavioral health teams and correctional behavioral health professionals. Stepping Up counties have seen success with strategies like this app that promote improved cross-systems communication and collaboration with community members.

To learn more, visit or search “My Mental Health Crisis Plan” in your app store.

Note that the Stepping Up initiative does not endorse specific applications or programs, but seeks to highlight options and information of potential interest to counties.