Ivan Prole-Photo credit

A crisis is usually defined as a severe situation in which events are expected to be dangerous or unstable. No one likes a crisis or situation in which life is completely out of our control. No one ever gets 100% prepared for an emergency. But the best time to prepare is now, not later.

Many people either become “frozen” in time, have an out of body experience, experience panic attacks, or feel completely confused. The once calm, collected individual before a crisis is now frozen and unable to act. If this is you, don’t fault yourself. We are only human and what our brains know don’t always translate into action.


There are a few things families, caregivers, and friends can do to prepare themselves for a crisis with a loved one:

Psychological Preparation

  1. Accept that you can encounter a crisis or emergency any day, any time: Walking through life not believing a tragedy can occur in your own life is like driving without looking in your side mirrors. You don’t want to walk in fear, but you do want to walk in reality.
  2. Have a plan: Write down, in a notebook dedicated to your “crisis plan,” things you could do if an emergency occurs. For example, if your loved one begins to hallucinate, write down what your first step will be. Will it be discussion with your loved one? Will it be hospitalization?
  3. Selfcare: You have to help yourself before you can help someone else. If I am feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, and unprepared, I’m more likely to make mistakes or  become irritable. Pace and take time for yourself.

Behavioral Preparation

  1. Know what you will do and say: When emergencies occur, it’s really easy to say and do whatever comes to mind, I’m guilty of this myself! But you want to have some idea of what you will do such as speaking calming words to someone out of control, reminding yourself of something that can keep you calm, or acting calm even when you aren’t.
  2. Know who you will contact: It’s always best to have emergency numbers of local healthcare centers, hospital ER’s, etc. close by. Have a list of family members or friends you will contact.
  3. Know how you will subdue threatening behavior: In cases of severe mental illness where violence is a possibility, be vigilant and know what you will do if your loved one’s behavior becomes violent. It’s difficult for people to associate violence with those they love, but an illness often removes your loved one from reality, increasing the possibility of violence.

God forbid a crisis occurs in any of our lives. But the reality is that crises do happen, even to the best of us. One safeguard you have is preparation. Preparation will help you navigate more smoothly in the event an emergency or crisis does occur.


For more information, visit NAMI Massachusetts: Before a mental health crisis occurs


All the best


Photo credit: Ivan Prole