How to support someone in a crisis

How to support someone in a crisis

Everyone ends up in a crisis at some point in their lives. As a relative, friend or volunteer, you can mean a lot to someone who is struggling. Here we provide advice on how you can create security to someone in crisis.

Providing support to someone who is struggling 

Providing support to someone who is struggling is not about trying to change the reality – what has happened has happened. Rather, your support is about ensuring that the person affected is not subjected to new trials, and about creating an ease to the effects of what has happened. 
A person in crisis is more likely to end up in new difficult situations, such as not being able to pay their bills or doing things that might normally make them feel good. Your support can contribute to avoid more bumps on the road and assist to find ways to deal with the situation. 

It can be difficult to support someone who is not feeling well, grieving or going through a crisis. You may feel unsure about how to act, worry about interfering or wonder what to say.  

Your efforts are influenced by your personality, your knowledge, your time and your commitment. But they are also guided by the situation, as well as by the relationship you have or can create with the affected person. Remember that everyone can make a small contribution and by that make a difference. 

Interacting with someone who is grieving – the first contact 

Making the first contact with a person who is grieving can be difficult for both. There is no right way to offer condolences in the event of a death and to show that you care. The most important thing is that you do it in a respectful way, because the person affected is often sensitive to how other people treat them.  

The right way varies from person to person. You can use words. Don´t forget that a look, a nod or simply your tone of voice also can be equally good ways to confirm that you know what has happened. The signal you send to the person going through the crisis is “I know you’re having a hard time, but it’s still okay for me to be close to you.” 
Interacting with someone who is grieving or going through a difficult period in their lives often evokes emotions in ourselves. Most people can relate to the difficulty of losing a loved one or feeling bad. This makes it easier to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, but it also makes you more emotionally vulnerable. 

Here's how you can assist 

It’s not always easy to know what type of help the affected person needs. It’s often easiest to just ask. If everything is in chaos, that question can sometimes be difficult to answer. In such cases, it can be a good idea to offer suggestions to consider: “I’m going out for a walk. Do you want to come with me?”, or “Are you having a hard time staying on top of paying your bills? Do you want me to help you with that this afternoon?”. 

Someone in crisis often doesn’t have the energy to get in touch and maintain close contact with everyone around them. You may sometimes have to accept this, while continuing to show that you´ll still be there for them later on, when they’re ready to re-initiate contact in a way that feels right for them.  

A person who feels really bad may find it difficult to ask for help. In these situations, the people around them must act and take the initiative to get in touch. 
We all have different skill sets. Some people are good at talking about feelings, showing intimacy and tolerate difficult emotions. Others are good at coming up with positive activities to do together. Be creative and figure out what you can contribute with.

Seven tips on how to help someone in crisis 

  1. Socialise and try to create a sense of security, even if the person doesn’t want to talk about their worries or feelings. Show that you are there to support them, both in the most critical phase and over time. Get in touch again, even if they have previously rejected your efforts to make contact.
  2. Be patient. Let the person dwell on what has happened and to ask the same questions over and over again. Dwelling can facilitate to deal with what has happened.
  3. Offer to assist with practical matters that can make everyday life easier.
  4. Assist in finding the right help. This may involve contacting the healthcare professionals or insurance companies regarding the possibility of compensation.
  5. Respect the actions and reactions of the person in crisis. Don’t take it personally if your friend doesn’t feel like to hanging out or cancels an activity, or if their mood changes quickly.
  6. Do various physical activities together, like going for a walk or training at the gym. Adapt the activity to what your friend can cope with at the moment.
  7. Read to learn more about common reactions and needs. 

Take care of yourself 

Supporting someone who´s not feeling well is of course meaningful. It can also be challenging. Perhaps it evokes feelings in you that you are not prepared for, or don’t know how to handle.  

  1. It´s important that you take your time and have the ability to recover. 
  2. You should also have assistans from others to be able to give good support – you shouldn't have to carry the entire burden yourself. Accept support and relief from your network. Or contact a family support centre, family association or the healthcare system for advice.
  3. Read more about common reactions to stress, worry or anxiety. As a confidant of someone who is not feeling well, it is common to suffer from stress and increased worry or anxiety.
  4. Take care of yourself and give yourself permission to take breaks from your friend if interacting with them is demanding. It’s important that you feel okay, because this will enable you to be a good support for them or someone else.  

”“Remember that everyone can make a contribution and by that make a difference” ”

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