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Emergency Help For Mental Health Crisis

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

This article is for mental health emergencies. Where it is imperative something needs to be done before a mental health breakdown, episode or panic attack. When your emotions have become so strong, you cannot control them. Follow in part or all 4 steps below. Remember the acronym TIPP.

Non-urgent footnote:

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1. Place the person's hand in ice-cold water. This can help ground them back.

Intense Exercise

2. Try an intense exercise to place your mind somewhere else temporarily. Go for a run or even do push-ups.

Paced breathing

3. Try box breathing. Focus on your breath; breathe into the count of 4 seconds. Hold the breath for another 4 seconds and then breathe out to the count of 4 seconds. Repeat the process until calmer.

Paired muscle relaxation:

4. This method usually works well. Take a deep breath in and tense your toes. Hold your breath for 3 seconds and then exhale and relax your toes. Repeat the breathing process going from tensing your toes to the next muscle group up (say thighs or calf). You can keep moving up the muscle groups, i.e. abdomen, chest, shoulder, arms etc. Just remember to take a deep breath in for each muscle group, holding the tension and breath for 3 seconds.

Why might we have a breakdown?

There could be many reasons why. But in general, most of these cases' outcomes are due to a cascade of intense emotions. An event, stimulus or particular thought might trigger these emotions. However, these emotions are not limited to these boundaries. Emotions can be triggered by something more complex or deeper. In the example of C-PTSD or even personality disorders, we might experience a series of events that were difficult to process when they happened, or we did not process them correctly (i.e. a child trying to make sense of a fundamental need that was not being met). In the former case, our brain needs to adapt to survive and does its best with what it has. Humans are social creatures and subconsciously need to fit in or act "normal" to be accepted by a group. This is also why we might hide or keep information withheld because we feel it is "weird" to feel, think or act a certain way. If now we experience a trauma, our brain tries to process the trauma in a way that does not violate our core beliefs. Sometimes our core beliefs restrain us from processing the trauma correctly. When our brain is unable to process trauma, it detaches (disassociates) from the trauma and places barriers (known as psychological defences ) between our "acting normal" self and our trauma. Two separate states that we may be partially or totally oblivious to. Our psychological defence may fail, and as a consequence, our trauma intrudes into the conscious part of our awareness. The manifestation of this intrusion is beyond the scope of this article. However, in a nutshell, the intrusion can cause a cascade of emotions and make it seem like the trauma is happening right now; we may lose touch with the present and past and experience different types of disassociation.

What about the latter case, "With the child and personality disorders"?

There are 5 fundamental needs for a child growing up. They are listed below.

  1. Emotional connection with the absence of an insecure attachment style.

  2. Freedom to express a sense of self.

  3. The teaching of how to function outside of a family. Self-government and responsible control for one's life.

  4. Realistic limits.

  5. Allowed to have spontaneity and play.

When these fundamental needs are not met, they increase the chance of someone developing a personality disorder. When we are growing up, we are constantly categorising things. Look at an infant who may categorise a "dog" and "cat" in the same category, maybe they call both a "tail" because they don't know the name cat or dog, but they do know the name/category "tail". As time progresses, a child develops its schemas ( patterns of thoughts and behaviours that organise categories of information and their relations). Suppose a fundamental need of a child is not met. In that case, it is possible to develop a maladaptive schema which is triggered throughout life events, and this can activate specific coping styles, responses or schema modes. I will put it in a nutshell with a very limited example. Suppose your parents or main characterological figure were excessively punitive. As a child trying to process punitive parenting, it is much easier to accept that you, the child, are wrong and your parents are correct, even if it might not be the case. Then in the future, you may have children and depending on the schema, coping style or response, you develop. You may try and be more lenient with your child to prevent them from having experienced what you experienced, or you may have internalised how you were raised, and you develop a punitive style of parenting. This is a mere example of how we can develop predictable schemas. Some strings of maladaptive schemas can cause people to act out whether they are aware or not.

Remember, no matter the suffering you're going through. You matter. It's not the events or suffering as it is the thoughts and feelings we have towards it and what we tell/told ourselves.

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