How to Help Someone Who’s in a Crisis

Life is so rich in offering us a vast array of situations and circumstances, some more challenging than others.  When you are in the position to comfort a friend or family in crisis, you have been given wonderful opportunity to express love and caring.

A crisis is a very individual reaction to an event or experience in their life they find hard to cope with.  One person may be extremely affected by an event, while someone else experiencing the same event may experience little or no negative effects.  If a crisis is not dealt with in a healthy way, it can lead to longer lasting mental health issues, as well as social and physical problems.

People may experience crisis as a result of many events.  These can include, but are not limited to;

  • Relationship breakdown or difficulties
  • Physical Health issues
  • Violence and trauma
  • Pressures from work or study
  • The onset of mental health issues

For some of us, supporting people going through a difficult time can be confusing or awkward, no matter how much we want to be present for them.  Below are some suggestions that might be helpful:

Reach Out – Sometimes we’re afraid to reach out to friends and family in acute crisis because we think they’ll be embarrassed or ashamed.  Sometimes we just don’t want to deal, either because their problems hit too close to the bone or because we’re so submerged in our own issues.  But just as it’s important not to ignore physical pain in ourselves, its equally important not to ignore emotional pain in those close to us.  Many crisis occur because people feel isolated and in despair.  Let them know that you’re there and that they matter to you.

Listen, Don’t Give Advice – But as important as it is to reach out, it’s equally important to understand what your role is.  It’s tempting when confronted with someone else’s pain to try and fix it.  Chances are whoever you are talking to is already getting lots of advice from professionals.  The best thing you can do is to listen and let them know that you hear their pain.

Be there emotionally – Think of yourself as a vessel filled with love and support that you are offering out.  Recognise any feelings that you might have about the situation and try to not have them interfere with your ability to show up for your friend.  Keep your personal stories to yourself, along with any judgements or criticisms you might have.

You will get through this – A person in crisis may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel when the event first happens.  Hold your friend or family member’s hand, look them in the eye, and say, “You will get through this”, or “This shall pass”.  They may not believe you at the time, but it will be helpful to hear.

Remember that a crisis is a tender time for everyone.  If your intention to support is clear, but you don’t get it completely right, be very forgiving of yourself.  Showing up with a loving, open heart is by far the best medicine.

AmandaAmanda Ogden is from Sydney Australia, and has spent the past 13 years working within the welfare industry in both administration and case management assisting people with mental health issues, mild intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries, drug & alcohol, homelessness gain employment.  She also loves travelling, creating jewellery, music, friends and family.

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