5. Staying Safe and Managing Crises

Staying safe

Tips for staying safe


Read the full tip details by clicking on each one below.

  • ●  Try to identify crises that could occur and plan what you will do if a crisis happens.
  • ●  If possible, involve the person with a substance use problem, as well as treatment providers, in developing a plan.
  • ●  Create a list of emergency phone numbers, including those of doctors, treatment providers, hospital emergency departments, child welfare agencies (in Ontario, a Children’s Aid Society), the police, child care providers and family members or supportive friends.
  • ●  Prepare a getaway bag including things like phone numbers, money, keys and clothing. Keep the bag hidden but easily accessible so you can take it with you in an emergency.
  • ●  Be careful. If there is a risk of harm, avoid any action that will make the situation worse.
  • ●  Remove yourself or others from the situation and/or call for help, such as the police or an ambulance, if necessary.
  • ●  Do not judge, argue, provoke, patronize, mock or invalidate the person by saying their feelings are wrong or do not make sense. Remember, your safety is more important than winning an argument.
  • ●  Try to avoid intense feelings of anger or anxiety.
  • ●  Focus on your breathing.
  • ●  If necessary, remove yourself from the situation until you are more in control.
  • ●  Try to take the situation seriously without automatically assuming the worst (catastrophizing).
  • ●  Decide what plan will best allow you to deal with the situation. If you already have a plan, decide if it will work in this situation.
  • ●  Assess the risk to your own safety and that of others.
  • ●  Recall previous situations, including what the person with a substance use problem has done in the past and what happened as a result. Past behaviour is often a good predictor of current or future behaviour.
  • ●  Respect your gut feeling about the seriousness of the situation.
  • ●  Speak quietly.
  • ●  Slow down your breathing, thoughts and actions.
  • ●  Reduce distractions.
  • ●  Validate people’s emotions by letting them know that it is okay to feel how they feel and that their feelings make sense.
  • ●  Act and speak with confidence and assertiveness.
  • ●  Take control of the situation and of your behaviour.
  • ●  Pay attention to any signs of increasing violence.
  • ●  Notice looks (e.g., glares), words (e.g., swearing, accusations, threats), behaviours (e.g., slamming doors) or other signs (e.g., several empty beer bottles) that someone may be unsafe.
  • ●  Act quickly yet thoughtfully.
  • ●  Decide what plan would be best to use in dealing with the situation. If you already have a plan, decide if it will work in this situation.
  • ●  Stay firm in the limits you have set with regard to safety issues.
  • ●  If the person with a substance use problem does not respect those limits, enforce them by doing what you have said you will do—even if this means calling the police or reporting violence.