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Coping With Crisis

If a family member is affected with schizophrenia or a serious affective disorder, you may encounter crisis situations from time to time. Family members or friends will generally become aware of a variety of behaviors which will give rise to mounting concern: sleeplessness, ritualistic preoccupation with certain activities, suspiciousness, unpredictable outbursts and so on. During these early stages a full-blown crisis can sometimes be averted. Often the person has ceased taking medication. If you suspect this, try to encourage a visit to the physician.

You must learn to trust your intuitive feelings. If you too feel frightened or panic-stricken, the situation calls for immediate action. Remember your primary task is to help the person regain control. Do nothing to further agitate the scene.

It is imperative that you remain calm.

Don’t threaten. This may be interpreted as a power play and increase fear or prompt aggressive behavior by the person.

Don’t shout. If the person with mental illness seems not to be listening, it isn’t because he or she is hard of hearing. Other “voices” are probably interfering or predominating.

Don’t criticize. It will only make matters worse; it can’t possibly make things better.

Don’t squabble with other family members over “best strategies” or allocations of blame. This is no time to prove a point.

Don’t bait the person into acting out wild threats; the consequences could be tragic.

Don’t stand over the person if he or she is seated. Instead, seat yourself.

Avoid direct, continuous eye contact or touching of the person. Try to comply with any request that is reasonable and that does not increase danger. This provides the person with an opportunity to feel somewhat “in control.”

Don’t block the doorway. However, do keep yourself between the person and an exit.

Things always go better if you speak softly and in simple sentences.

If the situation escalates and you need to call the police, and preferably a C.I.T.(Crisis Intervention Team Trained officer), explain that your relative or friend is in need of psychiatric assessment and that you have called them for help.

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