5. Staying safe and managing crises

Tips for staying safe

Be prepared

    Try to identify crises that could occur and plan what you will do if a crisis happens.
    If possible, involve your relative 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, family members and supportive friends.

Exercise caution

    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 or argue with your relative by saying their feelings are wrong or do not make sense. Remember, your safety is more important than winning an argument.

Be mindful of your emotions

    Try to avoid intense feelings of anger or anxiety.
    Focus on your breathing.
    If necessary, remove yourself from the situation until you are in control.

Assess the situation

    Try to take the situation seriously without automatically assuming the worst.
    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.
    Respect your gut feeling about the seriousness of the situation.

Lessen the intensity of the situation

    Speak quietly.
    Slow down your breathing, thoughts and actions.
    Reduce distractions.
    Validate your relative’s emotions by letting them know that it is okay to feel how they feel and that their feelings make sense.

Spot danger signs

    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 a danger to themselves or others.

Figure out a solution

    Act quickly yet thoughtfully.
    Decide what plan would be best to use in the situation. If you already have a plan, decide if it will work in this situation.

Enforce limits

    Stay firm in the limits you have set with regard to safety issues.
    If a person 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.

Although you cannot prevent all crises, you can prevent yourself from living in “crisis mode.” To decrease the likelihood of living in crisis mode:

    deal with small problems as they arise
    plan ahead for how you will handle crises.

It can be very difficult to cope effectively with a sudden crisis, such as a relative being verbally or physically aggressive. Preparing in advance and having a crisis intervention plan can prevent a full-blown crisis situation from developing. Create a safety plan together with your relative when they are well. Decide and agree on what to do in a crisis and emergency situation. This allows everyone to be involved and prepared if anything does happen.