In this new era of greater mental illness prevalence, coupled with a corresponding growth in both acceptance and awareness of such issues, comes several questions including: how can I help someone in the throes of a crisis? With many in the community still trying to rebalance in the mental health aftershock of the global pandemic, and at least 67% of Americans worrying about the rising cost of living, there has never been a more important time to build your crisis care toolkit and look after your peers. While it’s just as important not to neglect yourself, there are some realistic measures you can take to ensure your friends, family and co-workers are safe and supported – let’s explore some of them.
Encourage Professional Help
Depending on the severity of the mental health emergency the individual is facing, a seasoned professional’s advice and/or treatment might be the best solution. If you are not someone who has completed an online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling or similar qualification, you might be feeling out of your depth. This is especially true if the person you are trying to support has been confronted with a traumatic event, is showing signs of psychosis, such as hallucinations, or is otherwise a danger to themselves or others. If you’re not sure, gently guide them towards a credible psychologist, crisis helpline or community counselor.
Be a Good Listener
Within the context of emotional hardship, sharing an exchange with someone and offering a non-judgmental listening ear is often the difference between seeing the bigger picture versus a full-scale meltdown. This is where empathetic listening comes in clutch. We all know that active listening is the main ingredient for healthy communication between parties, but empathetic listening is imperative when someone you know is dealing with more than they can handle. This kind of tuning-in focuses on stepping outside of our own circumstances and instead into the shoes of the person in crisis. We don’t have to blindly agree to what the person might be saying, but these moments necessitate consideration of the person’s thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Avoid Stigmatizing and Dismissive Language
As of 2021, a titanic 57.8 billion American adults experienced some kind of mental ill-health. Furthermore, of that number, young adults aged between 18-25 years represented the largest portion. Bearing this in mind, it’s crucial to avoid using language that perpetuates negative ideas and stereotypes, especially when dealing with the young and impressionable. For example, take care not to use discriminatory language like “crazy” or “psycho,” and tread carefully around topics like suicidal ideation. It’s also important not to grab at dismissive cliches such as, “someone has it worse than you!” or “just get over it.” Each individual’s feelings will differ, and those feelings will always be valid and proportionate to the circumstances of that individual.
Stay in Contact
Keep an open line of communication, even if the person needing support doesn’t reach out first. Regardless, knowing that someone is there and the offer to talk or come together is on the table can create a sense of hope and belonging. The journey through mental health distress is an arduous and lonely one, and isolation can be particularly damaging to those with a mental health condition, or anyone facing an active crisis. In fact, social withdrawal can result in serious consequences like suicide. Low effort psychosocial support, like going for coffee and a chat, or sending a quick text to check in on someone can be highly effective.
Offer Practical Support
Depending on the situation, practical support, like help around the house, picking up groceries for the person, or cooking a meal together can be of great assistance to those who are doing it tough. Living with a depressive disorder, for instance, can make daily tasks like showering and tidying one’s room feel overwhelming for a variety of reasons. Mental health emergencies are especially draining, leaving the affected person feeling listless and unable to tackle things like laundry or attending appointments. Having a little help during these times can make a heavy situation slightly lighter and more manageable.
In a world where mental health challenges are front and center, our ability to support those facing a crisis becomes an essential skill. In today’s read, we’ve explored some key strategies for aiding friends, family, or colleagues who are navigating these times. Encouraging professional help when necessary, listening with empathy, and using careful language are all steps toward providing effective support. Staying in contact and offering practical assistance can help combat the isolation and overwhelm that often accompanies mental health crises. By equipping ourselves with these tools and building a compassionate, non-judgmental environment, we can make a significant difference in the lives of those struggling with their mental health.