COPING WITH CRISIS
If a family member is affected with schizophrenia or a serious
affective disorder, you may encounter crisis situations from time
to time. Family members or friends will generally become aware of
a variety of behaviors which will give rise to mounting concern:
sleeplessness, ritualistic preoccupation with certain activities,
suspiciousness, unpredictable outbursts and so on. During these
early stages a full-blown crisis can sometimes be averted. Often
the person has ceased taking medication. If you suspect this, try
to encourage a visit to the physician.
You must learn to trust your intuitive feelings. If you too
feel frightened or panic-stricken, the situation calls for
immediate action. Remember your primary task is to help the person
regain control. Do nothing to further agitate the scene.
It is imperative that you remain calm.
Don’t threaten. This may be interpreted as a power
play and increase fear or prompt aggressive behavior by the
Don’t shout. If the mentally ill person seems not
to be listening, it isn’t because he or she is hard of
hearing. Other “voices” are probably interfering or
Don’t criticize. It will only make matters worse;
it can’t possibly make things better.
Don’t squabble with other family members over
“best strategies” or allocations of blame. This is no
time to prove a point.
Don’t bait the person into acting out wild
threats; the consequences could be tragic.
Don’t stand over the person if he or she is
seated. Instead, seat yourself.
Avoid direct, continuous eye contact or touching of the
person. Try to comply with any request that is reasonable and
that does not increase danger. This provides the person with an
opportunity to feel somewhat “in control.”
Don’t block the doorway. However, do keep yourself
between the person and an exit.
Things always go better if you speak softly and in simple
If the situation escalates and you need to call the police,
explain that your relative or friend is in need of psychiatric
assessment and that you have called them for help.