Experiencing a crisis is difficult not only for the person experiencing it, for his or her immediate social circle as well. Friends and family who want to help in times of need often do not know how. In some cases, loved ones are concerned that the person in crisis might harm themselves, and this adds to the stress and feelings of helplessness friends and family may feel. While some people will best be served by professional assistance, most people can handle crises on their own, with the support of friends and family. Here is some practical advice on how to help a friend or loved one cope with their crisis.

Do: Lend a sympathetic ear
During times of crisis people tend to feel lonely, and that no one understands them. Show your loved one that you care and that you are there for them. Support from family and friends has a tremendously positive influence on our ability to cope. Be sure, though, not to force your loved one to talk if they is not interested. Just make it clear that you are there for your loved one if and when they do want to share.

Do: Try to ensure a routine and calm environment
Normal routine will allow your loved one to organize their thoughts and gather their strength. If you know of something that will make them happy, and it’s possible to arrange for it, try to do so. In addition, you can suggest some of our relaxation exercises as a way of coping with crisis. These will give your loved one a way to relax and experience a sense of control. Also, the very fact that he/she is taking steps to improve his/her situation will give him/her a feeling of hope.

Do: Pay attention to unusual behavior
Notice behaviors such as excessive use of alcohol, drugs, or expressions of suicidal thoughts. In such cases, immediately seek professional help.

Do: Consider whether a professional could help
In some cases, such as depression, the crisis your loved one is experiencing is not likely to go away by itself. In these cases it is important to seek professional help. This need becomes even more urgent when there is a danger that a person may cause him/herself harm. When in doubt, do not hesitate to ask for help.

Don’t: Be judgmental
Try not to get angry with the person in crisis, or to blame them for their emotional state. This is especially important in cases of depression, outbursts of anger or anxiety attacks, as blame may exacerbate the feeling of loneliness. Try to be patient and think of these feelings as a disease that they must recover from. Make it clear to him/her that you are not angry with themand that you understand what they’re going through.