How to Support Someone in a Mental Health Crisis: A Guide for Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Acquaintances

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Supporting someone going through a mental health crisis can be challenging and emotionally intense. Still, whether you are a friend, family member, coworker, or simply an acquaintance, it is essential to understand that there are ways to provide meaningful support during this difficult time. By taking intentional steps, you can offer comfort, encouragement, and hope to someone in need.

Consider How Your Role Fits Into the Big Picture

It is vital to assess and understand your role in the situation. Are you a friend, family member, colleague, or acquaintance of the person in need of support? Are you the primary support system, or is there someone else better equipped to offer assistance? Understanding your relationship with the individual will help guide your actions and determine what kind of support you can offer.

It is also essential to understand the severity of the crisis and whether professional help is necessary. A loved one experiencing a temporary dip in mood may require a different level of support than someone amid a severe mental health episode.

By considering these factors and approaching the situation with empathy and understanding, you can then take the appropriate steps to support your friend, family member, colleague, or even just an acquaintance in their time of need and ultimately make a significant difference in their life.

Know the Signs

Recognizing the signs of a mental health crisis in someone you care about can be difficult, but it is a crucial step in being able to support them effectively. Some common indicators that someone may be in crisis include changes in behavior, such as increased irritability or agitation, a decline in self-care or personal hygiene, or a sudden shift in mood. Differences in thinking or perception, such as hearing voices or having persistent, intrusive thoughts can also signify that someone is in crisis.

According to Johns Hopkins, suicide is often a result of underlying mental health challenges, such as depression or substance use disorders. Individuals experiencing these issues may feel isolated, lonely, or depressed and have gone through traumatic life events. It is crucial to be aware of the warning signs and seek immediate help for anyone expressing thoughts of suicide.

Cigna’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention list includes warning signs for suicide, such as withdrawal from social activities, sleeping too little or too much, and increased alcohol and drug use. The sudden shift from a period of depression to excessive cheerfulness, along with the act of giving away prized possessions and discarding cherished items, can also be significant indicators that a person is facing a high risk for suicide, according to CareFirst.

UnitedHealthcare’s reference guide is worth looking into as well. Although it is designed to assist primary care providers, it is a valuable resource for identifying symptoms of depression, ADHD, and alcohol or substance misuse.

In addition to being aware of warning signs, it is vital to recognize factors that increase the likelihood of suicide. Mental health conditions can serve as a primary risk factor. However, a family history of suicide, as well as significant life events such as job loss, the passing of a loved one, relationship issues, and financial difficulties, are also contributing factors, according to Optum.

It is crucial to remember that everyone experiences mental health differently, and what may be a red flag for one person may not be for another. However, being aware of these indicators can enable you to take action and provide the support someone struggling needs during a mental health crisis.

Be Proactive and Supportive

There are more effective approaches to supporting a person struggling with mental health than waiting for them to reach out to you for help. It is essential to understand that they may not ask for assistance, and even if they do, it may not be in the form you can provide. To truly make a difference and provide meaningful support, seeking ways to assist them proactively is pivotal.

It is especially critical to take someone’s words seriously and offer assistance immediately when they express suicidal feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or plans. 

The rates of suicide are not only increasing among adolescents but are also becoming a growing concern among seniors and the elderly. This article by Humana provides a list of organizations that offer help – including the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line for people older than 60 and for adults living with disabilities. Meanwhile, there is a list of 24/7 helplines on the Magellan Health website for immediate support.

It is also integral to know the truth about suicide and dispel any false beliefs or myths surrounding this sensitive topic. This article by Aetna sets the record straight on the common myths about suicide.

Taking early and proactive steps to support someone in need is crucial in their journey to recovery. You can provide comfort and guidance by being there for them during their time of need, helping them feel less alone and more hopeful. Whether offering a listening ear or connecting them with resources, your presence and support can be vital in their journey to a better mental state.

Encourage Treatment and Self-Care

While mental health problems are just like physical health issues, and there is no reason to feel embarrassed, someone in a mental health crisis may resist seeking help or treatment. However, this is where your support can make all the difference.

Encourage them to seek professional help, whether it is through a doctor, therapist, or crisis support hotline like the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which provides confidential and free real-time support to those who are struggling.

Similarly, understanding insurance coverage can play a significant role in making mental health treatment accessible and affordable for the person in need. For instance, Medicare provides coverage for one depression screening per year. This kind of information helps make informed decisions about the type of treatment or therapy best suited for specific needs and financial situations.

In addition to seeking professional treatment, motivate them to prioritize self-care, including exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, and engaging in hobbies. Support them in their self-care efforts and be there for them during their recovery journey. Remind them that recovery is possible and that they are not alone. The key is to find what works for them and helps them feel better.

Take Care of Yourself

Providing mental health support can be emotionally and mentally draining. It is critical to prioritize self-care and engage in activities that promote your sense of peace and balance so you can continue providing the support needed with empathy and compassion.

Self-care can take many forms, from engaging in physical activity and eating well to taking time to relax and recharge. Setting boundaries and communicating effectively with the person you are supporting is also paramount, including having open and honest conversations about what you can and cannot provide and knowing when to step back and take a break if needed.

Remember, taking care of your mental and emotional well-being is essential to be there for those you are supporting. Do not be afraid to seek help and prioritize your self-care needs.

Seek Resources for Mental Health Crisis Support

When supporting someone in a mental health crisis, it is important to be well-informed and equipped with the right resources. Many options are available, including hotlines, apps like Kaiser’s Ginger, support groups, therapy and counseling services, crisis centers, and more.

Innovation Health, for instance, has Let’s Talk Videos covering many mental health subjects, including depression, anxiety, and suicide. Their website also features an online tool called MindCheck®, which assesses a person’s emotional well-being through a simple color-coding system.

Anthem’s list of mental health resources and organizations is helpful for people seeking mental health assistance and those who support them. This directory provides access to a range of community programs and information on mental health support.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield website offers a vast collection of online resources related to mental health, including the myStrength program. This self-directed mental wellness tool provides tailored support to tackle everyday stressors.

Tricare also offers a variety of resources for uniformed service members, retirees, and their families experiencing challenges with their mental health, including access to hotlines for immediate support.

By taking advantage of these resources, you can gain a deeper understanding of the situation and be better equipped to help someone through their mental health journey.

Supporting someone in a mental health crisis can be challenging, but it is necessary to remember that small acts of kindness and compassion can make a big difference. At Bloom Health Centers, we understand the impact mental health crises can have and strive to provide an encouraging environment for those suffering and those who support them. Our compassionate team of mental health experts is dedicated to providing personalized, evidence-based treatment options, both in-person and virtually, across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 

If you or someone you know needs support, do not hesitate to contact us. No one should feel alone in their journey to wellness – Bloom is with you every step of the way.

Have questions?

We’re here to talk to you about your specific mental health needs. Give us a call or request an appointment through our online form.