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Dealing with a crisis


What is a crisis? What can I do if it happens to me?


A crisis is defined as a sudden unexpected situation with a severity that overwhelms a person’s coping mechanisms. What determines a ‘crisis’ can differ from person to person.

For example, a child whose pet dies may face a crisis, as may a person who faces the loss of a spouse or friend. When undergoing crisis, a person may show the following responses:

  • Emotional: F eelings of denial, helplessness, shock or anger
  • Physical: Hyperventilation, lethargy, gastric pain, insomnia, weight loss

In cases of major crisis, a person may experience hallucinations, have suicidal thoughts, pose a danger to self or others, or display symptoms severe enough to affect functioning. In these cases, professional help is recommended and there are many resources in the community. General Practitioners (GPs), Family Service Centres (FS Cs), school or company counsellors, and helplines like the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS : 1800-221-4444) can serve as a first-stop. If necessary, the person may be referred to IMH/WH for further help

While it is a fact that crisis can happen to anyone, some important things to note are:

  • Everyone can be affected by a crisis, but may react differently in their own ways
  • Everyone can recover from a crisis, but at their own pace
  • Everyone is capable of attending to and helping another person in distress
  • Caregivers need to take care of themselves as well, while caring for the person in distress

In crisis management, it is vital to build up mental resilience.

How to Help Someone In Crisis


  • Don’t belittle or mock what the person is going through.
  • Don’t pay too much attention to the person e.g. checking constantly is he’s ok. This may make the person feel that his responses are abnormal. The experience of certain emotions, etc is a normal process in times of crisis.
  • Don’t blame a person for recovering from a crisis too slowly or even quickly, because different individuals have different recovery rates.
  • When speaking, lower your tone of voice and ensure that your body language is non-confrontational and receptive.
  • Practise active listening. You may try to identify and reflect the person’s emotion e.g. " I sense that you are feeling helpless about what has just happened."
  • Calm yourself down first. The person is likely to mirror your calmness, and calm down too.
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