Supporting a loved one in a crisis

 When someone we care about is going through a mental health crisis and they come to us for support it is important that we try to remain calm and help them as much as we can. It is common for people to speak with friends and family before seeking professional help so your support can be so valuable to them. Firstly, it is important that you remain calm. It can be distressing for us to hear that someone we care about is suffering, especially if they are feeling suicidal. While it is never nice to hear that someone you love is hurting, talking is a very important step for that person and if you start to panic then they may stop talking. 

The person may need urgent help if they:

  • have harmed themselves and need medical attention
  • are feeling suicidal and may act on these feelings
  • are putting themselves or someone else in serious risk of harm

If you are in this situation then there are a number of steps you can take to support them:

  • If they are not safe by themselves then stay with them and help them call 999 or go with them to A&E. They might appreciate having your company while waiting to see a doctor. 
  • If they can keep themselves safe but are highly distressed then you can help them try to plan their next steps. If they are currently getting treatment for their illness then you should find out if they have a crisis emergency plan set up and follow the advice in the plan. You can also call mental health helplines or help them to arrange an emergency doctors appointment.
  • If they are at risk of harming themselves then you could encourage them to remove anything that they might be tempted to use, especially if they have mentioned specific things they may use. 
  • If you feel personally in danger or that others are in danger then call 999 and ask the police for help. You may be worried about them getting in trouble but it is important to keep yourself safe. 

When people suffer from mental health crisis they can sometimes suffer from psychosis. This  means that they may be experiencing reality in a very different way than the people around them. This could include things like hearing voices, seeing things that aren't there or feeling paranoid. This may seem scary to you but there are a lot of misconceptions about psychosis. 

Experiencing psychosis does not mean that the person is dangerous and here are some tips on how to help someone:

  • Focus on how their beliefs are making them feel. So they might be feeling scared, anxious, threatened or confused and these feelings are very real. 
  • Avoid confirming or denying their beliefs. A good thing to say is that you understand that they are seeing things that way, but it is different for me. 
  • Research some information on psychosis so you can understand better. This will allow you to support and make them feel less alone.