6 Steps to Helping Someone in a Crisis
A mental health crisis can look different depending on the person and situation, but can be any time when someone feels overwhelmed with negative emotions and harmful thoughts. In many cases, the first person someone in crisis turns to is a family member or friend. Even without any clinical training, here are six things you can do to help someone in a crisis.
1) Listen without judgment
Use words and body language to show the person you genuinely care about them. Don’t blame the person for their problems or say they shouldn’t feel that way (they do feel that way, and that’s what matters).
2) Assess for risk of suicide or harm
While listening, pay attention to the words they use. Threatening to hurt themselves or someone else means the person could benefit from immediate professional help. Feelings hopeless or irresponsible drug use may also warrant immediate attention. If you believe someone is suicidal or needs immediate help, call 911 or the Community-Wide Crisis Line at (520) 622-6000. The Crisis Line is staffed 24/7 with experienced counselors who can talk with the person in crisis.
3) Reassure them that they are not alone
Mental illness and substance addiction are both real illnesses that can be treated. 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with a mental illness every year (and many go undiagnosed). While one person’s situation or experience may be unique, others with similar problems have recovered or learned to treat their illness and live a positive, fulfilling life.
4) Encourage professional help
Mental health professionals (doctors, psychologists, peer counselors, social workers, etc.) are trained to work with people in crises. Encourage someone in a crisis to seek out a professional that they feel comfortable with – you can even help make the phone call.
5) Encourage self-support
Treatment and recovery work best when accompanied by a support system of people and other coping mechanisms such as exercise or a creative hobby.
6) Self-care – take care of YOU
Helping someone in crisis can be unnerving. Know your own limitations; if you feel overwhelmed, or like you might go into a crisis yourself, encourage your loved one to reach out to another support person (this can include professional help).
Other Crisis Information
Community-wide Crisis Line
A free 24 hour crisis line for individuals experiencing severe emotional distress, mental illness or substance use. Anyone living in Pima County can call this line. Crisis line staff can connect callers with local resources and information.
Hope Inc. Warm Line
This is a 24 hour non-emergency free phone line for anyone living in Pima County who needs to talk. Peer support operators have first-hand experience in living with mental illness and/or substance use – either through personal experience or the experience of a close family member.
Youth Warm Line
This warm line provides the same benefits but is designed specifically for youth ages 13-17. Operators will provide age-appropriate referrals to agencies in the community.