Psychiatric emergency refers to a situation in which a person is at risk because of intense personal distress, suicidal intentions, or self-neglect. Others in psychiatric emergency may behave in an aggressive manner, make threats and act violently (Atakan & Davies, 1997). These intense emotional and behavioral states are usually related to acute psychotic episodes, acute psychological crises stemming from life transitions, traumatic experiences, existential despair, routine problems in living, etc., and usually indicate the failure of the person to adopt his or her usual pattern of coping and use of a social network to circumscribe the crisis situation. As a consequence, psychiatric in-tervention is necessary. In Hong Kong, the official definition of psychiatric emergency is

a condition under which a person's disturbance in thoughts, feelings or behaviors is to the extent of being out of control of him/herself, severely withdrawn, asocial, completely disoriented and out of touch with reality, jeopardizing his/her own health or seriously disturbing others, and is considered by the person him/herself, or by others, to require immediate outreaching service and psychiatric or other intervention (Social Welfare Department, 1999, p. 1).