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How To Help Someone In Crisis

By Trip Starkey, 9/1/2022

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which is aimed at decreasing stigma around mental health, raising awareness around the topic of suicide, and ultimately increasing access to life-saving resources for those who need them. One critical way we can drive better access to these resources is by creating stronger mental health allies who can better support those in need.

When it comes to supporting someone in an acute or emerging mental health crisis, it is important to remember that you do not need to have all of the answers. The most important thing you can do is take action. If you don’t feel as though you can offer adequate support, find someone who can. Below are some ways to be proactive when helping those in crisis.

Scenario 1: When to Offer Support
Crisis can take many forms. It can be anything from coping with a stressful event, a family challenge, financial hardship, or a mental/physical health condition. Communities play an essential role in helping to navigate the path forward, which starts with recognizing the signs of distress.

  • Here are some examples of signs to look for:
    • Withdrawal (personal and/or professional)
    • Changes in appearance
    • Consistent comments about being overwhelmed, lost, not knowing what to do, or feeling stuck
    • Increased substance use
    • Increased frustration and/or anger
    • Increased confusion and/or lethargy

  • Key Takeaway: Trust your gut. if someone you know is acting differently in several areas of their life, it can be a sign that something is off.

Scenario 2: Having Difficult Conversations
Offering help can be intimidating. However, showing support and connecting others to care can be simple. One important aspect is being clear about your concerns and desire to help.

  • Here are some helpful tips:
    • Have the conversation in a private setting
    • Ask questions and be empathetic
    • Be direct in sharing your concern (use examples)
    • Be clear that you want to help
    • Do more listening than talking
    • Don’t express judgement
    • Don’t rush the conversation
    • Plan a next step and/or check-in

  • Key Takeaway: If you are worried about someone, the most important thing to do is say something. Simply taking the time to listen can go a long way and open the door to someone connecting with additional support. If you are still worried after an initial conversation, be persistent and follow up.

Scenario 3: Helping Someone in Immediate Crisis
If you, or someone you know, is in a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately. While doing so can feel overwhelming, it is important to remember that individuals who receive emergency care are almost always grateful for the support after the crisis subsides. Most importantly, it can save a life.

  • How to take action:
    • If someone is an immediate crisis, it is important you or someone else stay with that person (assuming there is no immediate danger to bystanders) while you find support.
    • If you are able, offer one or two choices for connecting the individual to additional support, while being insistent that they connect. For example: “I am going to get you some help. Would. you like me to walk with you to the health center, call a crisis line, or call 9-1-1?”

  • Key Takeaway: Being non-judgmental, empathetic, and intentional about your desire to connect a person in crisis with support are the most effective ways to manage the situation. Most importantly: do something. If you don’t feel like you can offer the support someone needs at the moment, find someone who can. Doing nothing is the only mistake you can make.

For more information on our unique approach to crisis navigation through HelpCompass or the YOU platform, be sure to connect with our team today. And remember: being proactive, educating yourself, and becoming a stronger ally is the best way to help others and strengthen your community.

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