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.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

  • 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

THINGS TO SAY AND DO

  • 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.

THINGS NOT TO SAY AND DO

  • 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

PEOPLE DO BETTER IN THE LONG RUN IF THEY:

  • 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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