When Dealing with a Crisis

Get help. No one should try to handle these crises alone. Your plan should always involve other family members, public authorities, crisis workers, or other professional assistance—notified ahead of time, if possible.

Trust your instincts. If you’re worried about violence or suicide, it’s likely that something is building up and becoming overwhelming for your relative.

Talk respectfully. Even if your relative is frightening you or making you angry, you must approach them with respect—it’s the only way to get the results you want. All good crisis intervention is calm, purposeful and respectful.

Set limits. It’s essential to set limits on alarming and dangerous behavior and to have a plan for backing up your demands. You must decide on the specific consequences and be prepared to enforce them.

Speak openly about difficult topics. You can’t ignore potential violence and suicide; you have to talk about these fears directly and openly with your relative. Tell them that their behavior is making you feel afraid; ask point blank if they’re considering suicide. In crisis, direct communication is essential. It reduces tension, airs out and de-escalates secret plans, and releases a lot of tension from your relative’s stormy mind.

Protect your loved one's life. When your loved one is in crisis, the most responsible way to care for them may involve treatment that the don't feel they need. It’s a difficult dilemma on how to keep them safe and still respect their choices. Even if they get angry or break off their relationship with us, we want to ensure their well-being. We can’t hesitate because we think they won’t love us anymore. Mental health conditions can put people in danger. Act out of love.

Protect your own life. Keeping ourselves clear of danger is the most important form of self-care. We’re declaring that we won’t let mental health conditions rob us of our life and that we’re ready to separate ourselves from the threat.