helping someone in crisis

When it comes to helping someone in crisis, I often hear people saying something which includes the phrase “… but I’m not qualified.”

It drives me nuts, because, any human being is ‘qualified’ to help another human being. Since when did you need to be ‘qualified’ to extend a helping hand, listen patiently, sit with another person, support others, offer help…. Do you get my drift?

This is a BIG issue. At any given moment one in four of the people you have contact with could use some help with an issue that is causing them distress. It might be an emotional or psychological problem, difficulty with a relationship, that they are facing unwanted change, have had a shock, are struggling with one of their children…

We all face trials and challenges in life, and we all count on each other for our survival and wellbeing. This is inescapable. I’m not saying we should force our support on others, or even assume that they need it. But when it is specifically asked for or obviously needed, we can at least offer.

“I’m not qualified…” may be a result of modesty or under-confidence (or a cop-out), but it also massively under-estimates the natural humane abilities and skills that most of us have. Helping someone in crisis is often not about expert help, a supportive stance, listening ear, or, even just your physical presence, can make a difference.

And the social- and mental health services can’t cope; people can’t access the help they need, and for those who do, many get the wrong kind of help because it’s all the system can offer. This is not the fault of the services nor the professionals involved; there is simply not enough to go round. Helping someone in crisis then becomes more than a nicety; it is a social responsibility.

Yes, but…

There is a qualifier to the ‘Am I Qualified’ question. Some people aren’t able to be available to others, or they have an unhealthy motive which means that they shouldn’t. But they are a minority.

Unless you are a psychopath (2% of the population), currently suffering a mental health crisis of your own (say, 4%), narcissistically absorbed in yourself too often to care about anyone else (1%), drunk (lucky you), or for some reason vulnerable and in need, counting on others for your wellbeing or survival (5%), you ARE qualified.

Still not convinced?

Because I like to help, I’ve prepared my ‘Am I Qualified’ quiz so you can check to see. Please answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the following:

  1. I am a Human Being
  2. I have some life experience
  3. I’m able to care for myself
  4. I care about others (most of the time)
  5. I know how to empathise
  6. I know how to listen
  7. I can be patient with another’s distress (on a good day)
  8. I can listen to another person’s problem without getting emotionally entangled
  9. I don’t feel the need to ‘fix’ others’ lives for them
  10. I can manage my boundaries to protect myself from being overwhelmed or exploited.

How did you do? It seems to me that even if you can only answer ‘Yes’ to one or two of them, then you are qualified for helping someone in crisis by acting supportively towards them.


Image courtesy Freepick

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.


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