What To Keep In Mind While Talking to Someone In Mental Health Crisis
Part 1 of 2 This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with a couple police officers to talk about what to keep in mind when they deal with #MentalHealth situations as part of a week-long course on the subject. The conversation went well and I realized that making my ideas available for other officers or people responding to #MentalHealth crises can greatly benefit the community.
So, what do I find important for #MentalHealth calls?
1. Make sure the person is grounded before proceeding with any detailed conversation – Many people dissociate during periods of high #Anxiety and will not be able to respond effectively unless they are grounded. Being able to help the person feel grounded will allow for better communication. Being grounded means that a person is fully present and aware in the moment of what is happening around them.
2. Grounding techniques to know – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 helps people connect to the room they are in. What are 5 the person sees, 4 things they hear, 3 things they can touch, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste? Ice packs, weighted blankets, white noise machines, music, and pets all work well.
3. Speak slowly and calmly – People in a heightened state of #Anxiety may take longer to process information. Also, repeat the intention of the visit and that the person being helped is not in any trouble.
4. Communicate effectively – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy provides an effective framework for communication called a DEARMAN script. DEARMAN stands for Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, Mindfully, Assertively, and Negotiate (if possible). People will be more open to accept help if they feel respected in all forms of communication.
5. Check biases – Are people of all race, ability, sex, etc. being treated the same? Don’t assume someone is on drugs if they are unresponsive and not cooperating. The person may be dissociating and are unaware of what is being requested of them.
6. Know who you are working with and adjust accordingly – #MentalHealth affects people both with and without disabilities. It may be necessary to accommodate for cognitive disabilities or for someone with hearing, visual, or other physical disabilities.
7. Validate – It is important to validate both the person’s experience that got them to the point they required intervention as well as the emotions that they bring. Even something “small” could be a big deal for a person struggling with their #MentalHealth .
8. Be aware that law enforcement being called is a #Trauma in and of itself – Keep in mind that the person will have memories associated with the event that may lead to mistrust of the system. Although law enforcement may see these calls all the time, it is likely the first time for the person they are working with.
9. People will lie – especially in the situation with law enforcement being called in, it’s possible that the people who are most likely to harm themselves will be the first ones to lie and say they are ok because they’ve made up their minds and don’t want anyone to stop them. Careful detective work is needed to tease out whether or not the “ok” person is truly safe.
10. If possible, bring a female to the call – if going to a call with a known female or of someone of unknown gender, try to have a female officer (or any female that can ride along) come with because a woman (or man) may have a history of #Trauma such as sexual assault and will feel more safe with a female present.
11. Avoid talking face to face and keep the person engaged with something – If possible, go for a walk or sit on the couch with the person to eliminate the pressure of being face to face. Engaging in a simple activity can also help a person stay calm and open up.
12. Speak in concrete terms and offer hope – It took me over 10 years of therapy to finally understand how to look for the positives. I was told to look for yellow cars. Since they’re rare, the only way to notice them is if a person is actively looking for them. Yellow cars represent positive things. During a nasty storm (or depressive episode), cars (or positives) don’t just disappear off the road until it’s sunny out. Good things are out there even when a person can’t see them.
Keeping this list in mind can alter and effect positive influence on a conversation with someone struggling with their #MentalHealth . It