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Spotting Signs of Mental Health Crises and Providing Support

Author: Yean Toh | Published date: August 8, 2023 | Category: Mental Wellness, Mind


Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, and it's crucial to be aware of the signs that someone might be going through a mental health crisis. Recognizing these signs early on can lead to timely support and intervention. In this article, we will explore common indicators of mental health crises and how to provide emotional support to someone who might be struggling. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of seeking professional help and self-care for both the person in crisis and their support system.

Spotting Signs of Mental Health Crises

Mental health crises can manifest in various ways, and it's essential to be attentive to these signs in individuals around us. Some common signs of mental health crises include:

  • Intense and Persistent Feelings: Pay attention to individuals experiencing prolonged sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety, which might seem overwhelming and unshakeable.
  • Cognitive Difficulties: Watch for signs of trouble in decision-making, focusing, and thinking clearly, as this might indicate emotional distress.
  • Mood Swings and Aggression: Sudden and intense mood swings, along with uncharacteristic aggression, could be indicative of an underlying mental health issue.
  • Thoughts of Self-harm or Suicide: Individuals expressing thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or an obsession with death should be taken seriously and supported immediately.
  • Physical Stress: Increased physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems might be linked to mental health struggles.
  • Social Withdrawal and Isolation: If someone starts to withdraw from social activities and isolates themselves from others, it could be a sign of emotional distress.
  • Impaired Daily Functioning: Difficulty in performing day-to-day tasks, such as bathing or brushing teeth, might indicate a mental health concern.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Notice changes in sleep patterns, such as oversleeping or insomnia, as they can be associated with mental health issues.
  • Substance Use: Increased reliance on substances as a coping mechanism might be a red flag for underlying mental health problems.

Providing Emotional Support

When you identify signs of a mental health crisis in someone you care about, offering empathetic and understanding support can make a significant difference. Here are some ways you can provide emotional support:

  • Listen Actively: Give your full attention and maintain eye contact when the person is expressing themselves. Avoid distractions and ask questions to clarify their thoughts and emotions.
  • Hold the Silence: Sometimes, people in distress might find it challenging to communicate their feelings. Offer silent company, allowing them to express themselves at their own pace.
  • Respond Empathetically: Show empathy and refrain from judgment. Let them know that it's okay to feel the way they do and avoid imposing your opinions or advice unless asked.

Providing Practical Support

In addition to emotional support, practical assistance can be valuable during difficult times. Consider the following ways to be of help:

  • Accompany Them: Offer to accompany them to appointments with healthcare professionals if they are comfortable with it.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn more about the specific mental health issue they are facing. This will help you understand their struggles better and offer appropriate support.
  • Assist with Daily Tasks: Offer assistance with day-to-day tasks to ease their burden during challenging periods.
  • Organize Their Thoughts: Help them note down and organize any questions or thoughts they may want to discuss with their doctor or therapist.
  • Maintain Social Contact: Keep in touch regularly to ensure they feel supported and accepted, even if they need space.
  • Ask for Their Input: Inquire about the kind of support they need and respect their preferences.

Seeking Professional Help

Encourage the person in crisis to seek professional help. Mental health professionals are trained to provide appropriate support and guidance, helping them develop coping strategies and management plans for their distress.

Ready the Reinforcements: You Are Not Alone

Help them compile a list of resources that feel safe and comforting. This may include crisis hotlines, supportive family members, close friends, pets, or familiar places.

Take Care of Yourself

Finally, remember to take care of your own mental well-being as well. Supporting someone through a mental health crisis can be emotionally draining. Ensure you get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet, take breaks when needed, and seek support for yourself if required.

Conclusion

Spotting signs of mental health crises and providing emotional support are essential in helping individuals navigate challenging times. By being attentive, empathetic, and understanding, we can make a positive impact on the well-being of those around us. Remember that seeking professional help and taking care of yourself are vital components of the support process. Together, we can create a supportive and caring environment that fosters mental wellness for all.

Dr Shawn Ee.

BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Registered Psychologist (AHPRA; Australia) 

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