When you notice that a loved one is in crisis it can be hard to decide what to do to help. A crisis can be when someone is experiencing extreme sadness, anger, anxiety, or wanting to hurt themselves or others. Getting involved with these heavy emotions may feel overwhelming or even frightening. Try following these 5 tips to help your loved one when they are in crisis.
1. Avoid “Fixing”
Everyone has experienced a parent or friend that tries to give suggestions and advice on how to “fix” feeling sad, angry, guilty etc. The word “fix” can be synonymous with stopping the person from feeling emotional pain. The need to “fix” things comes from a healthy place of wanting to be supportive but it is not effective. When you try to “fix”, it can make the individual in crisis feel judged or inferior. Examples of when someone is trying to “fix” the problem are: “Look at all the progress you have made”, or “Don’t be sad, you have so many friends and a great job”.
2. Listen Without Judgment
The most important thing to communicate to your loved one is acceptance. This can be done through actively listening and reflecting what your loved one is sad or angry about. This shows that you are genuinely listening and want to help. If your loved one communicates feeling lonely to the point where they are thinking about hurting themselves you could say “you want support from someone but you don’t feel like there is anyone that cares.” As humans, our main unconscious motivation in life is to be heard and understood for who we are, especially in our darkest moments.
3. “Sitting in the Soup”
This is a phrase that most of my clients hear me say. “Sitting in the Soup” refers to being in the moment with your emotions instead of trying to distract yourself. This can also be used when your loved one is in crisis. Sometimes sitting and being silent with someone when they are feeling at their lowest shows that you care about them and accept them even when they have strong emotions.
4. Avoid Name Calling
If your loved one is in crisis, you may become anxious, sad, or frustrated due to the pressure of keeping them safe. You must be in control of your emotions because this models for your loved one that this situation can be remedied. I cannot tell you how many times I have had clients tell me that their spouse, sibling, parent, or friend has called them “crazy”, “psycho”, or “insane”. Unfortunately these words are used so causally that we as a society forget how hurtful they can be. Your loved one does not want to feel the way that they feel, and if they could stop their crisis, they would.
5. Safety First
If the above tips do not work, and you fear your loved one is in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, call 911 for help and request a crisis intervention team trained officer. In Montgomery County, MD, not all officers are CIT trained. This training teaches officers about different mental illnesses, and how to de-escalate a situation where someone wants to hurt themselves or someone else. Getting the police involved can be a traumatic experience for your loved one, so having someone who understands mental health can make the situation go smoother.