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helping a friend in crisis

Here, we offer advice from personal experience about how to help a friend in a mental health crisis.

Mental health crises come in all shapes and sizes, and although there is a lot of support available for those directly experiencing the crisis, it can be draining if you are supporting a friend or family member. 

From personal experience, getting support for a loved one is scary and overwhelming. Not only do you have to deal with worrying about their wellbeing, but you have to also worry about their reaction to your decision to get help for them.  See our tips below about how to support a friend in a crisis.

how to help a friend in crisis

  • If they refuse help and you are still concerned, call 111 or 999 if it is an emergency and ask for an ambulance. Historically, the police can be undertrained in mental health first aid and can be frightening for the person in crisis. If you are worried about a loved one’s health, calling an ambulance will help transport them to get the help they need, and they can say no.  

  • Take care of yourself. This will undoubtedly be draining, and there’s very often a “right” way to go about helping someone else. You may face criticism or backlash, but if they get the help they need, have faith in yourself that you’ve done the right thing. You may come across backlash from the person you helped or even their friends, it is important that you find support for yourself from other sources during this difficult time. You did the right thing. Remember, you are not a trained mental health professional and there is no shame in mental illness or getting help, hopefully, in time, your friend or loved one will understand that you did absolutely what was best for them.

  • Speak to them if you are worried that they are acting unusual or unwell. Even simply asking “are you ok?” can mean a lot to vulnerable people and may give them a chance to open up. ​

  • If you are worried, speak to them about getting support. If you are not a trained mental health professional, you should not be making executive decisions about someone else’s health. Like any physical illness, they need to be examined as soon as possible. The NHS is free and here to help. If you are worried, there is no harm in getting in touch with them. 

  • Create a support network of friends, family, partners, and colleagues for them. Now is not the time to focus on any personal disputes you may with these people. If you want to help support your loved one, it requires a connected community to help them feel safe. No one person should feel obligated to care for another or to cut others out of this process as it’s too much mental strain for one individual. This is a team effort. 

  • Keep in touch. During this time, it’s best to focus on the positives and their recovery around them. Understandably, taking charge through action (such as calling an ambulance) is scary and can leave us doubting ourselves and our judgement. Make sure to remove them from any situations that may escalate their condition, particularly if certain activities contribute to the degradation of their wellbeing.

  • Anxiety
    Anxiety UK (www.anxietyuk.org.uk) Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition. Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 10pm; Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 8pm)
  • Depression
    Mental Health Foundation (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk) Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities. Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk/) Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems. Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm) Rethink Mental Illness (https://www.rethink.org/) Support and advice for people living with mental illness. Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm) Samaritans (http://www.samaritans.org.uk/) Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline) SANE (http://www.sane.org.uk/) Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm) YoungMinds Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals. Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
  • Bipolar
    Bipolar UK (https://www.bipolaruk.org/) A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Drug and Alcohol
    Frank (https://www.talktofrank.com/) Web-based information as well as an email service and helpline. Website contains A-Z of drugs and advice on what to do if you are worried about a friend. Helpline 0300 123 6600, 2pm to 6pm
  • Eating Disorders
    BEAT (https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/) The National charity for eating disorders, 08088010711 (for under 18s), 08088010677 (for adults). Helplines are open 365 days a year from 12pm–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends and bank holidays. Beat also offers a one-to-one web chat and online support groups.
  • For Men
    CALM (https://www.thecalmzone.net/) CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a health promotion charity with the aim of reducing male suicide in the UK. Website contains helpful information and ways to get involved. 0800 58 58 58 (5pm to midnight, 7 days a week) Men’s Health Forum (https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/) 24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email. HUMEN (https://www.wearehumen.org/) HUMEN provides space for men to talk, listen and connect online every Monday at 18:30. StrongMen (https://www.strongmen.org.uk/) StrongMen is a charity aiming to tackle emotional and mental health issues brought about by the suffering from bereavement. UK Men’s Sheds Association (https://menssheds.org.uk/) UK Men’s Sheds Association is an organisation that offers community spaces for men to connect, converse and create. The activities are often similar to those of garden sheds, but for groups of men to enjoy together. They help reduce loneliness and isolation, but most importantly, they’re fun.
  • People of Colour
    The Mental Health Foundation (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/b/black-asian-and-minority-ethnic-bame-communities) The Mental Health Foundation has some highly beneficial information on their website regarding BAME Mental Health and the barriers which exist for people of colour in relation to accessing therapy. Black, African and Asian therapy network (https://www.baatn.org.uk/) This network is the home of the largest community of Counsellors and Psychotherapists of Black, African, Asian and Caribbean Heritage in the UK. If you can afford therapy (which can be relatively cheap as some therapists offer a sliding scale where you can get therapy as low as £10 a session!) Black Minds Matter (https://www.blackmindsmatteruk.com/) Connecting Black individuals and families with free mental health services — by professional Black therapists to support their mental health.
  • LGBTQ+
    switchboard.lgbt (https://switchboard.lgbt/) The LGBT+ switchboard helpline provides listening services, information and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day) email: chris@switchboard.lgbt Allsorts (https://www.allsortsyouth.org.uk/) Allsorts is charity which supports young people under 26 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or unsure (LGBTQU) of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity 01273 721211. Free helpline, 10am-5pm, Monday – Friday LifeSIGNS (https://www.lifesigns.org.uk/) Self-Injury Guidance & Network Support. Ideas and guidance for anyone affected by self-injury. Small charity run by LGB people with personal experience of self-injury. Anonymous Support Forum, clear fact-sheets, and active across social networks e.g. @LifeSIGNS LGBT Foundation (http://lgbt.foundation/) Helpline run by Lesbian and gay health charity. Email: info@lgbt.foundation 0845 3 30 30 30 or 0161 235 8035 (10am-10pm, daily)
  • OCD and Panic Disorders
    No Panic (http://www.nopanic.org.uk/) No Panic helps people who experience Panic Attacks, Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and other related anxiety disorders including those people who are trying to give up Tranquillizers. Helpline 0844 967 4848, 7 days 10am to 10pm
  • Suicide Prevention
    Papyrus (https://www.papyrus-uk.org/) A site focused on preventing young suicide with dedicated sections on resources for young people and their friends. Hopeline UK 0800 0684141 Monday to Friday, 10am to 10pm Prevent suicide (https://www.prevent-suicide.org.uk/) Grassroots preventing suicide has an app with help and resources for people who feel suicidal or are supporting someone else.
  • University Students
    Nightline association (https://www.nightline.ac.uk/want-to-talk/) A confidential listening, support and practical information service for University students. You can talk to them about anything – big or small – in complete confidence without judgement. Call (+44)207 631 01016pm to 8am BST every night of term Student Minds (https://www.studentminds.org.uk/) The student minds website has a wealth of information and resources about being a student and managing your mental health as well as information if you are concerned about a friend.
  • General
    Rethink (https://www.rethink.org/) Rethink Mental Illness helps millions of people affected by mental illness by challenging attitudes, changing lives. The website contains A-Z factsheets on conditions, treatments, living with mental illness also information for carers. Advice line 0300 5000 927 Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm Samaritans (https://www.samaritans.org/) Samaritans provide a helpline for people wanting assistance to talk about issues related to their wellbeing or any other problem troubling them. They offer phone, email and text support. Helpline 08457 909090, 24hrs, 7 days a week Sane (http://www.sane.org.uk/) Helpline offering practical information and emotional support in a crisis. 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day). Befrienders (https://www.befrienders.org/) Befrienders worldwide is a worldwide directory of emotional support helplines. Call helpline (https://www.callhelpline.org.uk/) Provides listening services, information and support for people experiencing a mental health problem in Wales. Also provides a text messaging service. 0800 123 737 Helplines (https://helplines.org/) Is a directory of helplines available in the UK which you can search to find support suited to you. Hub of hope (https://hubofhope.co.uk/) The Hub of Hope is a database bringing grassroots and national mental health services together in one place. You are able to search for services using your postcode. Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk/) Mind is a mental health charity offering both frontline services and online information. A-Z information about mental health and information and support can be found on their website. Info line 0300 123 3393 Legal Advice line 0300 466 6463 Royal College of Psychiatrists (https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/) Information for young people, parents and carers about young people’s mental health. This website provides user-friendly and evidence-based information on mental health problems, treatments and other topics, written by psychiatrists with help from patients and carers. The Mix (https://www.themix.org.uk/) Everything from homelessness to finding a job, from money to mental health. We’re here. The Mix is a charity that provides free, confidential support for young people under 25. Support. Advice. Information. 0808 808 4994 (Sunday–Friday 2pm–11pm) NICE (https://www.nice.org.uk/) Produces clinical guidelines on recommended treatments for different conditions, including guidance about joint crisis plans.
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