A Comprehensive Guide to Assisting with a Mental Health Crisis

A pair of hands are wrapped around a blue ceramic mug, a pink tea towel sitting underneath.

Over the course of three months, guest blogger Lucy Merriman put together an amazing 5-part series entitled, How to Lend a Hand in a Mental Health Crisis. The series looks at the gaps in our current mental health care system and provides information on how to fill those gaps on an individual basis, even if you yourself have little to no crisis training. All five parts are published in the “What Can I Do?” section of this blog, but the content is so valuable and educational, I’ve put all the links and summaries in one place in Yopp Academy as well.

Part 1 – Enlisting the Help of a Crisis HotlineA single hand reaches out of a large body of dark water, asking for one last chance for rescue.

Lucy talks about her personal experiences with calling a hotline during a mental health crisis and how later she signed up to become a volunteer crisis counselor herself. In this article she covers:

  • The basic features of a typical crisis line call
  • Some tips to get you or your friend the help you need as quickly and painlessly as possible
  • how to find opportunities to volunteer for a crisis line in your area

Some of the tools in part one are especially useful if you are not in a position to offer extensive support to a person in a crisis, but still want to help.

A person with short brown hair and a bright blue sweater stands on a ledge above water, extending their hand up, asking for help, as another arm reaches down towards them to help them up.

Part 2 – Mindset, Limit Setting, and Safety Assessment

Lucy lays out the preparation required to skillfully offer support to a friend in a crisis. Offering this kind of support can be really challenging, but this article breaks down what you need to focus on in order to even attempt to lift someone out of a dark place. Lucy covers how to:

  • Embrace a calm, compassionate mindset
  • Set boundaries and limitations on behaviors that are potentially harmful to you, the crisis helper
  • Assess how much danger someone is in

Part 3 – The Process of Processing

Several figured in the distance walk along path that is almost completely covered by large rocks. The sky is so thickly foggy that the figure who is the farthest away is almost obscured entirely. They look like they have a long journey ahead of them.Continuing her guide in being present with someone in a crisis, Lucy begins walking us through how to initiate processing– “the method crisis counselors use to help the feeling brain run its course, more or less, so it can let the thinking brain take a turn in the driver’s seat again.” Whether your friend is in a full-blown crisis, or they’re just having a bad day, these tools are excellent for anyone who wants to be a better source of support.

Lucy covers how to:

  • Reflect your friend’s experiences
  • Validate their emotions
  • Ask open-ended questions to help your friend open up more easily

Part 4 – Educate, Normalize, & ComfortIn black and white, one child walks with their arm around the other, child, down a dirt road.

Aiding in processing is such a complex subject, it required two articles to cover all the needed information. Lucy looks at the aspects of processing that help people feel heard and cared for:

  • Educating to help correct limiting beliefs
  • Normalizing- the process of assuring your friend that their reactions to their situation are normal
  • Discerning the best form of comfort for your particular friend and then offering it to them

A person wearing a beige and grey patterned button up sweater holds an unsolved 3x3 rubikPart 5 – Seeking Solutions

The fifth and final installment of Lucy Merriman’s guide to offering mental health support when you yourself are not a trained mental health worker, is possibly the most universally helpful of all the parts.

She covers:

  • Techniques to help your friend find concrete solutions to their problems
  • Guidance on how to find relevant supportive resources
  • An amazing list of her favorite mental health-related media

Even though I’ve been in therapy for 12 years and am extremely well versed in basic coping and support techniques, I still found Lucy’s articles incredibly informative. I found myself using her techniques on both my friends and on myself on a daily basis.

These articles are an amazing set of resources, regardless of whether you are the helper or the one in need of help.

A rose-colored banner with brown letters says, "Need to talk? Call 1-800-273-8255. If you need help, please call. It's toll-free, anonymous, and available to anyone in the United States."

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