Many people and work places don’t know how to handle mental illness. They often misinterpret signs of a person in crisis needing help. This can be detrimental to the person struggling with mental illness. Telling someone he or she needs help when he or she dosen’t can cause the person embarrassment and anger. Handling a person in crisis improperly can lead him or her further into the darkest part of his or her hole. It’s not only important to know the signs of crisis, but it’s also important to know how to handle a person in crisis.
Below is a list of signs of a person in crisis.
- Talk of taking one’s own life and making attempts
- Becoming withdrawn from family, friends and co-workers
- Frequently calling off from work or canceling social plans
- Sudden changes in mood
- Neglecting to take care of one’s self
- Inability to do regular duties at home and work
- Easily agitated and bursts of anger
- Often making mistakes on regular duties at home or at work
- Deep sadness, hopelessness, and crying
- Inability to make decisions or handle minor problems
- Incoherent statements or writings
When you notice these signs, don’t over-react. Be kind and gentle when talking to the one suffering with this illness. Never assume you understand what he or she is going through unless you yourself have been through mental illness. A moment in your life when you dealt with deep sadness is not the same as an illness that doesn’t go away without help.
Don’t confront the person about what you have noticed in front of others. Take the person to somewhere private. Tell him or her what you have noticed and ask the person if he or she needs help. Never force help. You can’t make a person who doesn’t want help get help. Making someone talk to a crisis worker or go to counseling when he or she is unwilling can only make the person more upset and lead to irrational behaviors such as self-harming, suicide attempt, or a violent outbreak.
If the person agrees he or she needs help, then be willing to assist him or her. If he or she is at work, then be very discreet. Take the person to a private room and call the crisis hotline. Don’t have a crisis worker come to a place of work. If he or she does come to the work-place, take the worker to a private room.
When I was at my lowest point, a manager called crisis on me and the worker came to my department. I was embarrassed and my fellow employees formed judgments of me. This forced me deeper into my dark hole. Later that night I went home and injured myself.
Don’t assume because the person has mental illness he or she is dangerous unless the person becomes violent and begins to make threats to other people. The majority of people with mental illness are only a danger to themselves. There are some who go through psychosis that commit awful acts, but that is only a small percentage.
When I was going through crisis I was told I was a danger to others around me. The only person I have ever hurt is myself. Anyone who knew me knew I could never harm another person. I was self-harming at the time and had no desire to hurt anyone else. Being accused of this made me angry and hurt my feelings. I was a victim of prejudice and I couldn’t find the words to defend myself. All I could do was cry.
If you know someone who has mental illness whether it be a friend, an employee, or co-worker, educate yourself about the illness. Be supportive and willing to listen anytime he or she needs to. Know the signs of crisis and how to help when the time becomes necessary.
Many work places are not educated in how to handle mental illness or a person in crisis. This can lead to inappropriate actions and further anguish and pain to the person going through the illness. I myself have suffered the wrong treatment and it led to further problems.
I was accused of hurting myself at work when I didn’t. I was forced to sit in an office and talk to a crisis worker when I didn’t need to. If my manager knew anything about self-injury, she would have known self-injurers never hurt themselves in public. Harming oneself takes place in a private spot and the person goes to great extremes to hide it. I was hurt and angry.
The proper treatment of someone with mental illness can be a life saver. Because of friends and family who knew how to help me, I am in recovery. I stand in the light of recovery sharing what I have learned with others.