When & Where to Seek Help

The William James INTERFACE Referral Service is a mental health referral service and is not designed to respond to urgent situations where someone’s well-being might be at immediate and serious risk.  If you require a crisis response to meet immediate safety needs, we will give you the contact information for the crisis responder that can best assist you.  We will still be available to you after the crisis has been stabilized to work with you to find mental health services for yourself, child or family.  For more information about organizations that can respond in a crisis, or how to determine if that is the service you need, please read the information below.

If you do not require emergency help, the William James INTERFACE Referral Service maintains a mental health and wellness referral help line Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm, at 888-244-6843 (toll free). This is a free confidential referral service for individuals across the lifespan in participating communities. Callers are matched from our extensive data base of licensed mental health providers. Each referral meets the location, insurance, availability, and specialty needs of the caller. For more information about the service, you can see our downloadable flyer or postcard

The William James INTERFACE Referral Service is also very careful with the sensitive information you may share with us, and work to safeguard your information and protect your privacy.  However, in situations such as when there is a serious risk of harm to yourself, the harm to someone else, or someone that may be dependent upon you such as a child, older adult or a person with a disability, we may be required by law to report the situation to an appropriate agency responsible for ensuring safety.

Sources of help in urgent situations:

  • Mental Health Emergencies:

    • If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, you can call 911 or go directly to your local emergency room

    • You can also call your local Emergency Service Program that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to provide community-based behavioral health crisis assessment, intervention, and stabilization services.  There are 21 ESPs, covering every city and town across the Commonwealth. To find your local ESP, call 877-382-1609 or view the Emergency Services Program (ESP) Directory View our guide to learn more about Accessing Psychiatric Emergency Services.

  • Child Abuse: Child At-Risk Hotline, 1-800-792-5200

    The trained staff at this statewide emergency response system directed by Judge Baker Children's Center, answers emergency calls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Hotline works under the auspices of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and in situations where children are at imminent risk, an emergency response is initiated, with DCF field staff launching the investigations.

  • Elder Abuse: Elder Abuse Hotline, 1-800-922-2275

    Elder abuse reports may be made to the statewide Elder Abuse Hotline (1-800-922-2275), which operates on a seven days a week, 24 hours a day basis. Anyone can make an elder abuse report. However, the law requires certain professionals to report suspected incidents of abuse. Mandated reporters who fail to make elder abuse reports when appropriate are subject to a fine up to $1,000. In addition, the law provides mandated reporters with immunity from any civil or criminal liability that otherwise could result from making a report, provided the reporter did not commit the abuse. Persons who are not mandated reporters have the same immunity, as long as they make a report in good faith.

  • Abuse of a Disabled Person: Disabled Persons Protection Commission Abuse Reporting Hotline 1-800-426-9009

    An independent state agency whose purpose is to investigate and remediate cases of abuse of the Commonwealths most vulnerable citizens. The Disabled Persons Protection Commission was created by law in 1987. They run a hotline and make referrals, maintain data, do investigations, and collaborate with other agencies to protect adults with disabilities. The Awareness & Action training is intended for persons with disabilities, support staff, family members, social service agencies working with people with disabilities, health care professionals, educators and other professionals. 

  • Substance Abuse: The Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline, 1-800-327-5050

    The Helpline is a Massachusetts resource providing free and anonymous information and referral for alcohol and other drug use problems and related concerns. The Helpline is committed to linking consumers with comprehensive, accurate, and current information about treatment and prevention services throughout Massachusetts.

  • Domestic Violence: SafeLink, 1-877-785-2020

    SafeLink is a resource for anyone affected by domestic or dating violence. Are you worried about someone or have questions about abuse? Do you recognize warning signs of an unhealthy relationship? Do you need help or support? Call us. Each call is answered by a trained advocate who provides non-judgmental support, assistance with safety planning, and information on appropriate resources. SafeLink's state-of-the-art technology allows the advocate answering your call to keep you on the line while you are being connected to a resource in your area, getting you help in just a single call. It is also OK to call SafeLink if you need to talk about your situation or someone else's; you do not need to be looking for services or a shelter space.

  • Healthcare: Health Helpline, 1-800-272-4232

    Health Care For All's Helpline is free and available to everyone to answer your questions about healthcare in Massachusetts. We can help you with everything from general insurance questions to specific information you need about a personal health issue. Other issues you might have include questions on co-payments, health insurance rules, directions, whether you’re eligible for a program, or more. You can contact us via phone or online. Health Care For All is dedicated to making quality, affordable health care accessible to everyone, regardless of income, social or economic status. We seek to empower Massachusetts consumers to know more about our health care system and to become involved in changing it.

Advice for less urgent mental health situations

Individuals may develop mental health concerns or behave in a problematic way at some point along in their lifetime. Sometimes, the problematic behavior is brief, or only occurs every now and then. Other times, the behavior may last for weeks, or may occur frequently.

When and Where to Seek Help

The individual’s situation When to get help Where to get help
  • Mild to moderate change in behavior
  • You are worried but not alarmed
Soon (a routine assessment)
  • Pediatrician/Primary Care Doctor
  • Mental health professional
  • School
  • Family/Friend
  • Community agency
  • Major change in behavior
  • Individual seems unable to function without help
  • You feel unable to cope or help
48-72 hours (urgent)
  • Pediatrician/Primary Care Doctor
  • Mental health professional
  • Emergency Department
  • School

First Steps for Getting Help

If you, your child, or a loved one is struggling with behavioral or emotional difficulties, symptoms may appear across many areas of life, including home, school, work, relationships with friends or family, or within the community. It is important to identify a mental health concern early, so that you or a loved one can receive the proper care needed.

First, it is important to recognize whether and how an ongoing problem is affecting your, a loved one’s, or your child’s life. To identify this, it can be helpful to keep notes about when specific symptoms or behaviors occur. Try to answer the following questions as best you can:

  • What symptom(s) or behavior(s) have you noted? 

  • How are these different from your typical behavior?

  • When did the symptom(s) or behavior(s) begin?

  • How often do the symptom(s) or behavior(s) occur?

  • How severe or extreme do the symptom(s) seem to you? To others?

  • How long do the symptom(s) or each episode of the troubling behavior last?

  • Where do the symptoms or troubling behavior occur? At school? At work? At home? Do symptoms appear in one setting and not another?

  • How are the symptom(s) or behavior(s) impacting one’s ability to function in daily life?

  • If it is a child about whom you are concerned, is his/her behavior different from the behavior of other children in his/her age group?

For a variety of reasons, individuals are sometimes reluctant to contact a mental health professional when they suspect they or a loved one may have a mental health issue. One major reason is due to continued stigma around mental illness in society. For this reason, individuals may worry about what other people will think about them or their child. Some may worry that they will have difficulty understanding the mental health professional’s recommendations, that they will lose control over their or their child’s treatment, or that treatment will be expensive. These concerns are real, but mental health professionals work very hard to minimize any possible obstacles, and always welcome questions and family involvement in your or a child's treatment.

If you believe a problem does exist, you need to know how and where to find professional help. The initial contact should usually be with a primary care doctor or pediatrician. For parents seeking guidance around how to begin this conversation with their child’s pediatrician, please visit our Working with Your Pediatrician guide. For parents, the next contact should be someone at the child’s school. It may be an administrator, a teacher, or a mental health professional.  Seeking additional information from what school personnel have observed about the child, and finding out available resources at the school is an important part of treatment for a child.

If looking for additional support for yourself, it can help helpful to disclose your concerns to a trusted friend or family member. There are also a variety of support groups available, across the state, which can provide a safe place for you or a loved one to talk about your concerns. It is important to remember that if you, a loved one, or a child has a mental health issue, seeking support from different individuals will help ensure you have an opportunity to hear different points of view, learn more about the current situation and gain a better understanding of other mental health services and options available.

If you or a loved one would like to receive mental health support, you can also call the William James INTERFACE Referral Service. The service can answer any questions you may have regarding accessing mental health care for you, your child, or your family. The INTERFACE Referral Service maintains a mental health and wellness referral Helpline Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm, at 888-244-6843 (toll free). This is a free, confidential referral service for individuals across the lifespan living in participating communities.

In addition, the following resources may be helpful: