Caregivers play a crucial role in emergency circumstances like these. Knowing how to manage a mental health crisis allows you to take the most appropriate course of action in the least amount of time. The better a caregiver is able to manage the crisis, the greater chance for the loved one to make a full recovery.
So as a caregiver, what would you do when a loved one or someone you know is experiencing a crisis? What would your response be?
A person who contemplates suicide is usually experiencing feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Some may also attempt suicide when they are very mentally disturbed, hearing voices or having paranoid thoughts. The voices in their heads may tell them that they are bad, useless, and should kill themselves.
If you suspect someone is suicidal, it is best to ask the person openly if he is thinking about self-harm. Encourage him to talk about what is troubling him and lend a listening ear. Show empathy and show that you care.
Do not, however, promise confidentiality. A life could be at stake. You may need to inform a third party, such as a family member, a mental health professional or even the police, so that the person remains safe.
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, seek help immediately by calling the police, contacting a crisis helpline or taking the person to an emergency room. While waiting for help to arrive, stay with the person and continue to engage him. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the person alone.
It is a common misconception that people with mental illness are violent. This is rarely true. In fact, only a minority display signs of aggression.
A person with mental illness may sometimes display violent behaviour during a relapse, especially when experiencing paranoid thoughts or hallucinations. He may believe people are plotting against him or trying to harm him. When a person becomes suspicious and frightened due to these distorted perceptions, he must be approached with caution.
Maintain a safe distance from the person and speak slowly in a gentle tone. Ask non-judgmental questions and respond to the feelings of the person.
Always remember to put your safety first. If you feel unsafe or threatened in any way, get away from him and go somewhere safe. Call the police to ensure the safety of all.
In some situations, the person may need to be taken to the hospital for further treatment. It is advisable for family members to accompany him to the hospital, where they can inform the doctor of the symptoms and behaviours observed.
Times of crisis are tough on everyone involved. While helping the primary person in need, caregivers often neglect their self-care.
As as caregiver, you need to practice good self-care, and more so during crisis. This will allow you to have the physical and mental strength to deal with all the stresses. You can also avoid caregiver burnout.
Create opportunities for yourself to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a regular basis. Take care of your own needs and treat your body well. For instance, you can focus on healthy eating, engage in some exercise, and get quality sleep.
Prepare a list of ways in which others can help you in providing care. For instance, a family member might be happy to assist with caregiver duties on certain days. Or a friend might offer to pick up groceries for you.
Don’t give in to guilt
Feeling guilty is normal, but do understand that no one is a ‘perfect’ caregiver. You are doing the best you can at any given time. And you do not have to feel guilty about asking for help.
Many organisations offer courses on caregiving. Hospitals may also have classes specific to the medical conditions of your loved one. Get the knowledge and skills you need to be an effective caregiver.
Join a support group
A support group can be a great source of encouragement and advice. You will meet other caregivers who facing situations similar to yours. It is also a good place to make new friends and find mutual support.
Make an effort to stay in touch with family and friends. Set aside time each week for socialising, even if you could just be meeting a friend over coffee. Whenever possible, make plans that get you out of the house.
Find time to be physically active on a regular basis, and do not neglect your need for a good night’s sleep. It is also crucial to adopt a healthy diet.
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