How Can I Help in a Crisis?

In cases of severe and persistent mental illness, a person may experience a crisis in their mood, thoughts, or behavior.  Family members and caregivers, clergy and religious leaders need to be prepared for this occasion.

For pastoral and congregational settings, the staff, ushers, and other leaders should be prepared to deal with a crisis with a person who has a mental illness just as they are prepared to deal with a crisis if someone has a seizure, a heart attack, etc.  When a crisis occurs because of the person’s behavior or actions, it is important to respond.  Some situations can be dealt with gently and discreetly.  Note that there are some behaviors and actions which may not fit the norm, but the congregation may  learn to be welcoming, supportive and hospitable in understanding the situation.

Other situations may require a quick response.  Failure to respond immediately can contribute to the deterioration of the person and, in some instances, result in creating a threatening situation for the person or for others.  Guide the person to a place away from others where you can listen to them, talk with them calmly and quietly.  The situation may resolve itself just by removing the person from the setting that was disturbing the person.

Assess whether they are a risk to themselves or others.  In some cases, the person may need to be hospitalized in order to meet their needs.  Every state has its own laws pertaining to psychiatric hospitalization.  Family members/caregivers and congregational leaders should have this information available.  This can be obtained from mental health or legal resources in the community.