Whether you’re the one in crisis or are close to someone who is, feelings of helplessness can seep into your thoughts every minute, hour, and day. 

No two mental health crises are exactly alike: They can arise from a pre-existing mental health disorder such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or in direct response to some traumatic event. 

While supporting a friend or family member in crisis, you might feel uncertain of what to say. You may even feel like you’re walking on eggshells: Saying the wrong thing could worsen the situation. Regardless, know that your support is valuable and is often preferable to a hands-off approach. 

Nurse practitioner Judy Vansiea, DNP, MA, MS, APRN, NPP, can prescribe medications as she offers counseling alongside other mental health services to assist your loved one during a mental health crisis. 

Dr. Vansiea provides remote support with telemental health at Coping Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry Services in Uniondale, New York. 

As valuable as these services are, the support of a friend or family member is irreplaceable. Take a moment as we guide you through the general etiquette of supporting a loved one in crisis. 

Avoid accusations, shame, and blame

When a loved one is going through a tough time, it’s easy to suggest that what’s happening is somehow their fault or a result of their own decision-making. While we as humans naturally look to answer the question of “why?”, pointing fingers isn’t helpful during a mental health crisis. 

While offering your support, try to avoid blaming your loved one for the situation or shaming them for their decisions. These strategies aren’t conducive if your goal is to help them change a behavior related to their mental health. 

If they’re avoiding therapy, for example, try to highlight the benefits of counseling or therapy instead of criticizing their decisions. A better strategy is to offer resources or solutions if at all possible. 

Don’t take things personally

Sometimes people say things they don’t mean when they’re in crisis, and it’s important to keep that in mind for your own well-being. Don’t define that person by how they’re feeling in the moment or suggest that their negative feelings are at the core of who they are. 

Your words have an impact, so it’s best to try to frame things in a positive light and highlight their strengths. 

Keep your own boundaries

It’s easy to lose sight of your own boundaries while supporting someone else or trying to help them maintain their own. If you already know your limits, be sure to express them. 

You might not realize what your limits are until your boundaries are tested; be communicative and take a step back if you need to. However, don’t cut your loved one off entirely. 

Setting and maintaining boundaries helps you avoid burnout. Practicing self-care enables you to conserve your energy so you can continue to offer your support. 

WRAP it up

Most mental health professionals advise people in positions of support to create a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). When a loved one experiences a mental health crisis, you can prepare by developing a strong care network outside of just yourself. 

A WRAP for your loved one can include:

  • Contact information for mental health professionals
  • Contact information for friends and family members who may be able to help
  • A list of triggers to prepare for
  • A list of helpful community resources
  • Local crisis line phone numbers

The information and resources you include in your WRAP should be curated to assist both your loved one and any other people within their support system. Be sure to get your loved one’s consent before making any major decisions regarding their care, including welfare checks if possible. 

Do you have a loved one in need of professional assistance for a mental health crisis? Need more tips on how to help? Call Coping Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry Services or book an appointment online at your earliest convenience. 

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