Handling and Treating Psychiatric Emergencies Part 1

A list of instruction and tips to help you handle a psychiatric emergency.

Handling Psychiatric Emergencies

You and your friends can handle many psychiatric emergencies. The crucial elements are trying instead of drawing back, and trusting your own intuition. This sheet is meant as a simple guide, saying no more than common sense, but legitimizing people's efforts to help their sisters and brothers in trouble. Experience is, of course, the best teacher of all.

1. The 1st thing to do is LISTEN. Don't be in a hurry to give advice. LISTEN 1st; try to understand what's happening, what the person is feeling. Get into the person's FRAME OF REFERENCE.

Look for a "handle" to their situation. Try to figure out what's oppressing them, what's making them feel the way they feel. Once you've done that, you can start looking for options, for a way out of the dilemma.

2. You need to be CALM. If you can't be calm, find someone else who can be. As you listen, try to be accepting; don't start laying your trip on them. If they feel something, they have a reason for feeling it; respect their integrity. If you're calm and listening, you can start responding to them, which will help clarify the situation.

3. Understand how people's SELF-ESTEEM can be shot to pieces by crassness, inappropriate humor, or a casual air. Most people in emotional distress are feeling empty and helpless. Try not to make them feel worse about themselves. Look for the genuine assets in them, and in their situation. Try to restore their self-confidence.

4. Follow your hunches and your feelings: They're almost always right. Get in touch with what you feel, then think about it. If you feel sad, chances are the other person feels sad. If you feel scared, chances are the other person is scared too. If you feel angry, chances are the other person is angry too, or manipulating you. If you feel confused, chances are the other person feels confused too. Go ahead and say things like "I'm really confused by what you say," or "You must really feel horrible about all that." Use feelings, not ideas, as your main guide.

5. Don't be ashamed of being ignorant or feeling helpless. The other person probably feels the same way. Therapy is a human act, not some mysterious mumbo jumbo: Ask questions if you're ignorant; admit it if you feel helpless. Don't pretend to know what you don't. (That's mystifying to the other person.)

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