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Tips for First Responders - Delaware

People with Mental Illness

  • You may not be able to tell if a person is mentally ill.
  • If a person begins to exhibit unusual behavior, ask if they have any mental health issues of which you need to be aware. However, be aware that they may or may not tell you. If you suspect someone has a mental health issue, use the following tips to help you through the situation.
  • In an emergency, the person may become confused. Speak slowly and in a normal, calm speaking tone.
  • If the person becomes agitated, help them find a quiet corner away from the confusion.
  • Keep your communication simple, clear and brief.
  • If they are confused, don’t give multiple commands – ask or state one thing at a time.
  • Be empathetic – show that you have heard them and care about what they have told you. Be reassuring.
  • If the person is delusional, don’t argue with them or try to “talk them out of it”. Just let them know you are there to help them.
  • Ask if there is any medication they should take with them.
  • Try to avoid interrupting a person who might be disoriented or rambling – just let them know that you have to move quickly.
  • Don’t talk down to them, yell or shout.
  • Have a forward leaning body position – this shows interest and concern.

Additional Resources

Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Mental-Health Emergencies in Delaware
24-Hour Toll-Free Numbers:
1-800-652-2929 (New Castle)
1-800-345-6785 (Kent, Sussex)
1-800-652-2929 (DE Mobile Crisis Unit)

Mental Health Association in Delaware

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in DE (NAMI-DE)
1-302-427-0787 (New Castle)


University of DelawareCenter for Disabilities Studies