How To Cry for Help and Get It

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The late night desperate phone call.  The “good-bye cruel world” email.  Whatever your cry for help looks like, it means you’re in crisis.   You feel like you’ve got zero coping skills, you don’t have the strength to get through another hour, or you don’t know where to turn and you desperately want to die.

Deep down you know this isn’t the most effective way to ask for help.  But you’re so focused on your pain you can’t think straight.

This depression-induced focus on self means you find it hard to consider the person on the receiving end of your cry for help.  Likely they don’t know whether to take you seriously or what to do.  In the worst case, they’ve been so frightened by these calls for help that they’ve learned to distance themselves from you.

cry for helpPhoto Credit: horstmannsfotos via Compfight cc

There’s another option:  crisis planning.

A crisis plan will help you get what you need:

-          You can learn to head off some crises.

-          You will be less anxious in a crisis knowing you have a plan.

-          It will strengthen your relationships with those who want to help you.

-          It will reduce the danger of suicide.

When you’re suicidal, it’s too late to plan to get help.

Planning skills won’t be one of the skills at your disposal at this time.  Make a crisis plan when you’re feeling pretty OK.  Here’s the relationship building part – sit down with those in your life who want to support you and discuss who should do what.  Respect the preferences of your supporters!

Here’s what to put in your crisis plan:

  1. Your personal ‘situation critical’ signs and your corresponding mitigating actions.*
  2. The names and numbers of those involved in your treatment (doctors, therapists), your current medications, and any past medications that didn`t work or that you couldn`t tolerate. You might even put down the name of your actual diagnosis.
  3. Here`s what might be going on for me if I`m in crisis…
  4. Here`s what you can do to support me…  (Some ideas:  call my workplace, take away my car keys, drive me to the hospital, talk to me in this way…)
  5. Please don`t do or say the following as it won`t help…
  6. Here`s what I can do to help myself….
  7. If you think I’m suicidal, here`s what I want you to do…
  8. Here`s how you`ll know I`m not in crisis any more…

* A situation critical sign might be you’ve noticed you can’t stop the suicidal thoughts, you’re getting drunk and know that will make you more suicidal or whatever else tells you you’re heading out of control. A mitigating action might be to escape your current situation and try relax or call your support person to talk it out.

Pick and choose what works for you.  Some of this might just be a conversation.

FYI – For a sample of a detailed crisis plan for more severe mental illness, check out this WRAP version (WRAP = Wellness Recovery Action Plan).

I don’t want to be a burden. 

Is this what you’re thinking right now?  That’s a normal feeling that might keep you from crisis planning.  Depression makes you feel worthless and unworthy of help.

The people close to you want to help.  They won’t see you as a burden if they have a say in your crisis plan, if they’re comfortable with their role and if you also support them when they need help.

A crisis doesn’t mean your recovery is over.

Relapse happens.  It’s not a failure.  Recovery isn’t linear.

Ideally you should learn something about yourself in a relapse or crisis so that next time you’ve got one more tool in your toolkit.  Is there a new trigger you’ve noticed this time?  A new warning sign?  What worked well in terms of support?  What should you or others do differently in case this happens again?

What tips do you have for crisis planning?

Me July 2013

About the Author
Michele Longo
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.

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5 thoughts on “How To Cry for Help and Get It

  1. Storm
    November 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Sometimes all the planning in the world doesn’t help when people judge you based on what others have said about you. Seeking the truth comes from knowing the truth. Not just taking someone else’s word for what the crisis is. A support system involves trusting those you “think” will be there. This isn’t always the case. Good article and well thought ideas. After 30+ years of depression some days it just never feels like it will get better. Today being one of those days. “Depression makes you feel worthless and unworthy of help.”

    1. Michele
      November 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      The crisis planning doesn’t so much help you avoid crisis as give you a plan so you know how to handle it with whatever you’ve got at your disposal. I always believed I had to be responsible for my meltdowns so that I could preserve my relationships. It’s a strong opinion I have. Hopefully you find some ideas in my blog to help you on a path out of depression. Thanks for subscribing!

  2. November 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Another excellent article covering WRAPs in a far more personal and collaborative way. As one who has needed support and supported others I applaud this approach. I particularly found the following phrases more insightful and honest than usual: T”his depression-induced focus on self means you find it hard to consider the person on the receiving end of your cry for help. . . . In the worst case, they’ve been so frightened by these calls for help that they’ve learned to distance themselves from you.”. Thank you for writing so well.

    1. Michele
      November 28, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Thanks for your kind comments Sue! I see and hear of desperate people reaching out and it all seems so tragic. Their approach often works against them and I just wanted to plant some ideas of how things could be different.

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