It can be difficult to know where to begin when someone you care about is in crisis. Here are some things to keep in mind when supporting someone through a difficult time.
Connect With Them
People in the throws of a crisis often feel alienated and withdraw from friends and family. If someone you know is facing an emergency, connect with them. You want to be gentle, but you may also need to be persistent, so that they know you are there and that they matter to you.
Listen to their Story
Especially in the first days after a traumatic event or sudden change people need to tell their story their own words and at their own pace. A friend’s role is to listen without judgment. Communicate your concern and understanding by repeating what you’ve understood and asking for clarification if you are confused by what they are saying. Respect how a person interprets his or her own experiences.
Get Back to the Basics
Even the most minimal functioning may seem daunting during a crisis. Gently encourage your friend take care of themselves in normal ways, to shower and get dressed, and eat regular meals. If you know of self-care activities your friend enjoys, like exercise or creative pursuits, suggest these as well, without pushing them onto your friend, or thinking these are ‘quick-fixes’.
Expand the Circle of Support
You can help to research resources available to your friend. This is particularly beneficial for people who are too overwhelmed to look on their own. For physical or mental health issues, a general check-up with a physician is often a good place to start. In other cases, investigating support groups, distress or emergency hotlines in your area, or helping to navigate 211, Canada’s three-digit telephone number that provides information and referrals to health, human and social service organizations in many communities.
Many employers also offer an EAP, or Employee Assistance Program, which is a confidential, short-term, counselling services.
The Unison Benevolent Fund provides similar EAP services for all members of the Canadian music community. Counselling can be provided over the phone or online, and can address a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to: mental health support, managing relationships and family life, finding child and elder care resources, legal advice, financial guidance, workplace challenges, tackling addictions, improving nutrition and focusing on physical health.
Unison’s Assistance Program is always free and completely confidential.