If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis,
I think the first thing to do is figure out what you need. Right? So, if you’re having
trouble with your own safety, you’re really thinking about killing yourself, you need
to get help. And you need to see a professional, or you need to go to an emergency room. Not
everything can be done on a self-help basis. That said, self-help and self-management have
become crucial aspects of helping people do well. So the idea over time is to learn as
much as you can by joining groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to educate
yourself, to participate in your own care in an active way. And it’s not something
like, the doctor is giving you a medicine, it’s all forgotten. You learn about your
condition, you learn about the stresses, you learn about what it takes to help you live
the best way with it. Once you understand that, the crisis that you’re dealing with
is probably known to you, and you should have a framework for how to address future problems.
So the key thing about thinking about a crisis is how to get ahead of it, how to learn from
prior vulnerabilities, and how to enroll people in your life to help you anticipate it in
a way that you can accept their gentle feedback. When a person doesn’t want help, it generates
a tremendous challenge in all the people who care about them. How do you help a person
who isn’t particularly motivated? Or how do you deal with a person who feels ashamed
of their symptoms? Because when you ask a person, do they need help, the vulnerability
that they may feel, the shame that they may feel about knowing that they’re struggling,
is one of the things that you’re gonna be battling with. So the first thing I encourage
them is to be gentle with themselves. This is not an easy thing you’re trying to take
on. Then I encourage people to think of overlapping Venn diagrams. You might see: a psychotic
illness, a problem hearing voices, difficulty with functioning, and having trouble getting
out of bed. They might see: getting out of bed is a problem, and I wish I had more to
do. So I encourage people to ignore battling about their diagnosis or their symptoms, and
focus on the things that the other person wants to do. I wish I could get out of bed,
and I wish I could do more. By work, by starting with things you can agree upon, and building
upon them, that’s typically a good way to get started. You will probably need professional
help, though. And professionals deal with this hard topic all the time. In the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and
with any good caregiver, the purpose of the work is to identify patterns for you that
you can anticipate future vulnerabilities. Some patterns repeat themselves. So, if you
have depression that occurs in the winter, or if you have bipolar episodes in the context
of relationship distress, these become predictable phenomena. The idea of creating an anticipation
of your risk for crisis is actually part of the answer to dealing with a crisis. So the
idea would be to understand, if it’s seasonality, relationship changes, medication changes,
that are risks for you, and then to identify a series of things that you can do to minimize
your risk. Is it aerobic exercise? Is it having a social role? Is it participating in helping
other people as a peer and giving yourself a sense of meaning? These are the things that
we find over and over help people contend with reducing their vulnerability. So the
earlier a person gets help, the better their chances become. People can recover and live
great lives. One place to get help is the NAMI helpline.
The NAMI helpline is staffed by people who are living with mental illnesses successfully
and by their family members. The number is 1-800-950-NAMI.

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