How we can all play a part in preventing a mental health crisis
Written by Dr. Nicola Eccles on 12 Sep 2022
The pandemic has significantly increased mental health problems. The uncertainty, loss of control and repeated trauma we have all experienced over the last two and a half years have meant that the things that predispose us to a mental health crisis…have been magnified.
For some who were already struggling with psychological wellbeing, recent events coupled with current societal issues we are facing (e.g the economy and continued uncertainty) produce a melting pot for a mental health crisis. By this we mean the point at which someone feels as though they cannot go on anymore.
What part can we play in preventing a crisis and supporting individuals? This is a critical question for all of us. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and one another to try and support mental health. The strain and demise of professional mental health services creates a gap which we need to try and fill albeit we may not be mental health professionals.
What steps can you take if someone at work or within your community is with you and seems to be nearing breaking point? What is the best thing for you to do in this moment?
What could a mental health crisis look like in an individual?
Self harming behaviour
Extreme anxiety or panic attacks
Any kind of psychotic episode
Hypomania or mania
Or just any kind of behaviour which seems out of control and unusual and is likely to endanger the individual or anyone close to them
What can we do?
- Send a clear message that mental health issues are not a waste of anyone’s time
- Focus on getting through the next five minutes and then the next hour
- Disrupt thoughts
What can we say?
For an individual in the eye of a mental health storm, talking about the past or the future is completely irrelevant. Reminding an individual of what they have (family, career, lovely home etc) or what they have got to look forward to (holiday, night out, wedding etc) is futile. In this moment all an individual wants, is for the mental pain to dissipate. It is critical that we encourage them to focus on the next five minutes and engage them in an activity. Typical ‘disruptive’ activities could be stroking a pet, making a cup of tea, focus on breathing, listening to a song or walking outside briefly. Talk your colleague or loved one through these steps. Once you have got through those five minutes…focus on the next five with another activity. It the meantime calling a mental health crisis line (locally or nationally with 111 or 999) is advised in order to provide qualified support.
Proactive steps for organisations:
Have clear visible numbers and addresses of mental health support lines either virtually on the intranet or visibly in an office
Have spaces for reflection and creativity where possible to enable individuals to take responsibility during times of stress and anxiety. These spaces offer moments of calm for an individual who feels overwhelmed. With so many of us working from home or in a hybrid model, it is also advisable to encourage workers to create spaces to go within or around their own home. Importantly, reject the mentality that individuals should be chained to their computer which research suggests, we are doing more of since the advent of pandemic related home working.
Create a culture of awareness… of what mental health looks like and what steps individuals can take for themselves and others.