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Mental Health

Warning Signs Of A Mental Health Crisis And What You Can Do To Help

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, I check out advice for how to stop when somebody is having a mental health crisis, and the advice for what to do to help them.

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Mental Health Awareness

Mental health is important. I’ve shared before about my struggles with anxiety, and as my daughters and I are going through big life changes as we start over and try to find a new home, mental health has been on my mind.

I want to do my best to care for the people in my life, and that means I need to be aware of what to look out for. To help me, experts at Onsite First Aid Training sent over their advice for how to spot if someone is in mental health crisis, and what I can do to help them.

What is a mental health crisis?

A mental health crisis occurs whenever a person’s thoughts, feelings, or actions make it difficult for them to function, take care of themselves, or put themselves or others in danger.

It can happen to anyone, and you don’t have to have a mental health problem before it happens. A mental health crisis can be set off by stressful events or experiences, such as mourning, divorce or losing an employment, or as a consequence of a prolonged period of substance abuse.

No side effects. No drugs. No compromises. Treat depression differently.

Symptoms that a person may be going through a mental health crisis

You might notice warning signs in advance, or they might appear out of the blue. A few signs to keep an eye out for, which could show somebody is encountering a mental health crisis include:

  • Suicidal ideation or talking about “making plans”
  • Self-harming or wanting to harm themselves or others
  • Isolating or withdrawing from others
  • Inability to function or perform daily tasks, including personal hygiene
  • Experiencing psychosis, which includes hallucinations or delusions
  • Feelings of paranoia

Six ways to assist a person in a mental health crisis

Assess the risk of harm or suicide

It is essential to first determine whether the person in crisis has already hurt themselves or is considering doing so. In the event that you can see that somebody has genuinely harmed themselves or they report having taken an overdose, quickly dial 999 and remain with them until paramedics show up.

Call 111 if the person has self-inflicted injury and the bleeding has stopped, because they will be able to assess the severity of the injury over the phone. Be careful to accurately describe the degree of the injury, as this will decide if the individual is probably going to need medical attention.

Ask open-ended questions

When speaking with a person who is experiencing a crisis, it is best to ask open-ended questions because doing so will encourage a response that is more in-depth. Questions like “how are you feeling right now?” can help bring the other person back to their baseline and make it easier for them to express their thoughts and feelings. Try to start each question with either “how,” “why,” or “what.”

Close ended questions require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and don’t room to explore feelings. When you need a straightforward response to a question, such as asking, “Have you hurt yourself?” these kinds of questions can still be helpful.

Actively listen and let the other person talk

When you talk to someone about their mental health, try to listen actively rather than trying to give them advice or direction. This means making eye contact, using open body language, and listening without judging or trying to offer a solution to show that you are paying full attention.

Clarifying or repeating what they have in your own words can make somebody to feel appreciated, regardless of whether you know how to respond to what they have said.

Small affirmations, such as “That sounds really difficult,” show that you understand what has been said without interrupting them.

Have patience

When somebody is in a mental health crisis, they might find it difficult to articulate their thoughts clearly. Be patient and don’t rush them or they won’t feel like they’re in a safe space where they can speak freely.

Keep in mind that they may not have ever discussed these emotions with anyone else before and may not be aware of how to deal with what they are going through. Assure them they’re safe to take their time, and that you’ll listen.

Accept that they might not be ready to talk

Remember that when in a mental health crisis, not everyone will be ready to talk to you, especially if you’re a complete stranger. They may not trust you, or feel awkward talking.

Respecting a person’s decision not to speak is essential unless the purpose is to determine whether the person intends to harm themselves or others or has done so. It can encourage them to talk when they are ready by simply letting them know you are there.

Encourage seeking professional help

Chatting with somebody during a mental health crisis might actually save their life, however it is not a subtitute for professional help. Once you have established that they are safe, encourage them to seek support from qualified professionals, as they will be best equipped to meet their needs. This would usually be their GP, who can direct them to NHS resources and medical assistance for mental health.

Additionally, there are local organizations that can offer assistance. These can be found on Hub of Hope, a site that lists organisation that give mental health support.


I hope I never need to put this advice into action, but I’d rather be prepared than not. Mental health awareness is so very important, so I hope it’s helpful information for you too.

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