Helping Someone In Crisis

It happens to all of us. We see a friend or coworker who seems troubled–perhaps in response to a family tragedy, job loss, or other upsetting event. And we wonder, “Should I help–and if so how?”

 You may want to consider offering support if the other person has confided to you about a problem, if you have a close relationship, or if you observe any of the following signs: 

  • Difficulty concentrating or functioning
  • Marked change in sleep, appetite, or energy level
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Hopelessness or talk of suicide 

    While there isn’t a single approach that’s right for everyone, there are some guidelines that are generally useful

  • Encourage the person to talk further, and be prepared to listen in a nonjudgmental way. Such a conversation can help someone feel cared about and validated.
  • Don’t shy away from the topic of suicide if you think the person may be contemplating self-harm. It’s often a relief for someone to get the “secret” out and have support. It’s also important to take suicidal comments very seriously and get the person assistance right away.
  • Know your limits. If you are acting as a friend, not a counselor, know when to suggest professional help (e.g., in cases of severe depression, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, and substance abuse).
  • Get support for yourself when the crisis is over. You may find it helpful to talk with someone, provided you respect the privacy of the person in crisis.