There is widespread recognition that many who seek or are referred for help to psychiatric and social services are acutely disturbed and require only short-term help if they are to come through a period of transient disruption in their lives. The frequency with which people in crisis consult their GP or visit a local Social Service Department is uncertain but suggests that the primary carers are the first port of call for most of them. Services developed to meet the needs of these people include traditional GPs and psychiatric services directed primarily at ‘patients’ (people who meet criteria for illness), but which often offer additional help to their families; traditional social services which place no such limitation on the individuals who seek their help but are directed mainly at people with problems in living, particularly with housing, employment and money; and counselling and advisory services (such as Relate – formerly Marriage Guidance) which focus on particular problems or client groups. A few special crisis services, most of which provide a multidisciplinary team, visit clients in crisis in their homes. These are usually psychiatric services for patients with acute mental illness (Cooper, 1979).
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