Understanding Healthcare Part 3: Mental health emergencies and clinics

Mental illness does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, income, etc. Just as you might check in with a doctor regarding your physical health, it’s important to check in with yourself and others concerning your emotional well-being too. 

In Part 3 of this series, Understanding Healthcare, we’re focusing on mental health terminology and facilities, who to contact in a mental health crisis, and a list of local resources for people living in East San Diego County.

Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging.

Behavioral Health

Behavioral health is a broad term that refers to the wide variety of behaviors that impact a person’s physical and mental health. Behavioral health services include psychiatric care, medication, counseling, and substance use disorder treatment.

Mental Illness

Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. They can be diagnosed and treated, often with medications and other therapies. One in 6 adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. Common examples include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia. Some mental illnesses can actually be related to and/or mimic medical conditions. For instance, schizophrenic symptoms like hallucinations and paranoia may actually be related to a medical diagnosis of dementia. Therefore, a full health evaluation, including a physical exam is needed. This may include blood work, and/or neurological tests.

Mental Health Clinics 

Mental health clinics sometimes also known as behavioral health clinics are outpatient facilities that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological and behavioral health problems. They can provide routine services, or provide assistance during an emergency.

READ Part 2: Clinics

Mental Health Emergencies

What is considered a mental health emergency?

If you or someone else you know is thinking about hurting themselves or others or serious property damage is occurring, it’s considered a mental health emergency. Whether the person in crisis has a known diagnosis of mental illness or not, in a mental health emergency, intervention is usually needed to de-escalate the situation.

Who should I call during a mental health emergency?

  • You should call 911 and tell the dispatcher explicitly what is happening so that medical staff can be prepared if needed. Clearly state if someone has a known mental health history, and/or diagnosis.
  • Dial the 988 National Suicide Lifeline where you’ll be connected to a crisis counselor
  • Or directly contact behavioral health intervention teams like San Diego’s MCRT (Mobile Crisis Response Team) at 888.724.7240. When MCRT is alerted, they’ll assess the severity of the situation. If the person requires intensive supervision and the medical necessity of a hospital setting, they may be transferred to a Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU).

Mental Health Hospital Services near East County (Adults):

Mental Health Clinics in East County:

Phone Support:

Other Mental Health Resources & Support

Adults/Older Adults:

  • CRF East Corner Clubhouse (1060 Estes St, El Cajon, CA 92020)
    • Client-focused clubhouse model for adults with a history of mental illness – participation in vocational, educational, and social activities
  • Center for Community Solutions (858.272.5777)
    • Services focused on ending relationship and sexual violence with a 24/7 phone support line available.
  • Crisis House
    • Services for women, men and children who have survived domestic violence, along with outreach and housing for those experiencing homelessness
  • MHS/TURN – Action East (10201 Mission Gorge Suite O Santee, CA 92071)
    • Dual track treatment program for individuals with severe mental illness and/or a chronic substance use disorder.
  • McAlister Institute – East County Regional Recovery Center (1365 N. Johnson Ave. Suite 111 El Cajon, CA 92020)
    • Program treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction.
  • Heartland House (5855 Streamview Dr, San Diego, CA 92105)
    • Men’s residential program
  • SD County Strength-Based Case Management (619.401.5424) 
    • Case manager assigned to assist with long-term behavioral health problems to maintain housing, obtain financial assistance, and obtain medical and psychiatric treatment, ages 18-59 and other criteria must apply
  • Saddles in Service (6476 Japatul Highlands Rd, Alpine, CA 91901)
    • Serving mental health needs of Veterans, Active Duty Military, and First Responders
  • San Diego Freedom Ranch (1777 Buckman Springs Rd Campo, CA 91906)
    • Men’s residential program
  • Survivors of Torture (619.278.2400)
    • Provides specialized care at the healing center to help survivors heal and become self-sufficient and healthy members of their families and communities.


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