Crises events occur daily in every community in the world, whether it is a natural disaster, war, terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks, large-scale displacement of people and communities or even individual events such as accidents, robbery, assault.

These crises events have physical, social and emotional consequences for those affected.  Immediately after such a crisis event, those who assist are usually first responders of various kinds (emergency medical teams, police, firefighters etc.) as well as family members, neighbors, teachers and community members.


  • Provide non-intrusive, practical care and support.
  • Assess needs and concerns.
  • Help people to address basic needs (food, water).
  • Listen, but don’t pressure people to talk.
  • Comfort people and help them to feel calm.
  • Help people connect to information, services and social supports.
  • Protect people from further harm.

Mental Health in Crisis Events


  • Try to find a quiet place to talk and minimize outside distractions.
  • Stay near the person but keep an appropriate distance depending on their age, gender and culture.
  • Let them know you hear what they are saying, for example, nod your head and stay attentive.
  • Be patient and calm.
  • Provide factual information IF you have it. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know. “I don’t know but I will try to find out about that for you.”
  • Give information in a way the person can understand – keep it simple.
  • Acknowledge how they are feeling, and any losses or important events they share with you, such as loss of home or death of a loved one. “I’m so sorry… ”
  • Respect privacy. Keep the person’s story confidential, especially when they disclose very private events.
  • Acknowledge the person’s strengths and how they have helped themselves.


  • Don’t pressure someone to tell their story.
  • Don’t interrupt or rush someone’s story.
  • Don’t give your opinions of the person’s situation, just listen.
  • Don’t touch the person if you’re not sure it is appropriate to do so.
  • Don’t judge what they have or haven’t done, or how they are feeling. Don’t say…”You shouldn’t feel that way.” or “You should feel lucky you survived.”
  • Don’t make up things you don’t know.
  • Don’t use too technical terms.
  • Don’t tell them someone else’s story.
  • Don’t talk about your own troubles.
  • Don’t give false promises or false reassurances.
  • Don’t feel you have to try to solve all the person’s problems for them.
  • Don’t take away the person’s strength and sense of being able to care for themselves.

Mental Health in Crisis Events


  • Feel safe.
  • Are connected to others.
  • Are calm & hopeful.
  • Have access to social, physical & emotional support.
  • Regain a sense of control by being able to help themselves.


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King Jr

The information in this blog post was provided by the World Health Organisation.


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