How do we react when we encounter a mental health crisis?
Approaching someone with a mental illness requires a step-by-step process to ensure that they receive suitable help for their current condition. We use an acronym called ALGEE to help people understand the process of dealing with a person struggling with their mental health.
When we train mental health first aiders, we introduce this term at the start because it’s a crucial element of providing help for people with symptoms you can’t recognise or determine easily.
ALGEE is equal to DRAB (first aid); they can both save a life.
The ALGEE acronym can be drawn as a circle, and the point being? You can start with any letter you like when approaching someone, it all depends on the situation.
A – ASSESS for risk of suicide or harm.
Before approaching someone, have you studied his or her behaviour? Are they acting different? Do they go cold when someone mentions a particular subject? As a mental health first aider, it’s your job to identify any anomalies and act on them.
By assessing the severity or condition of the person, you can determine what action to take accordingly and work out how you should confront them about their feelings.
Every person and every mental health issue is different, and that’s why it can be difficult to identify the problem then and there, however are there physical signs that are a potential threat to them or yourself? If you notice self-harm, imminent distress or something out of the ordinary, then this person may be in a crisis situation and require immediate help. However, if the individual shows passive signs of being distressed, then we can approach them with the next step.
L – LISTEN non-judgmentally.
This is probably one of the most important things to remember as people with little experience often overlook it. It is important to listen, however it’s even more important to listen without judging the speaker.
If someone is experiencing a depressive episode or anxiety, then offering open arms is the best thing to do. Most of the time, people struggling with their mental health won’t want to openly talk about their feelings, but by approaching them during a quiet period, they’re more likely too. Most people desire empathy more than an answer, so don’t worry if you don’t know what to say – listening to them and showing sympathy is all someone could need to get through their bad day.
Being judgemental or disrespectful to the individual’s views or troubles can make things worse. If you want to help somebody suffering form a mental health issue, then you will need to adopt patience and understanding.
G – GIVE information and encouragement.
It can be difficult to get someone to take action on their mental health, even with encouragement. However, if you are speaking to someone who is suffering, then your encouragement will be the best thing. People often feel ‘alone’ when enduring depression, anxiety or PTSD, therefore knowing they have someone there is all they need.
E – ENCOURAGE professional help
This can be hard too, however it’s the right thing to do for anyone you see suffering. The sooner they’re able to confront their fears and seek help, the sooner they‘ll recover. As a MHFA, it’s your job to help them to the best of your ability and encourage professional advice.
You can only help them so far, however sometimes you’ll need to persuade them to seek the help they require. Depression and anxiety requires intensive encouragement, especially as many people don’t want to appear to be ‘bothersome’. The best thing to do in this scenario is discuss what options there are and how you will help them get there. All someone needs is encouragement and they’re more likely to seek help than they were previously.
However, to enhance your persuasions, make sure you have rapport with the individual or build trust, that way they are more likely to listen.
E – Encourage self help or other support.
Here it may be good to talk to the person about taking part in activities or hobbies that may distract them from their emotions. By providing them a way to maintain their mental health, they can help themselves on the road to recovery. Activities that you can introduce them to include; exercise, socialising, reading, gardening and other pastimes.
Do you think you’ll remember ALGEE?
In conclusion, ALGEE is a life-saving acronym in mental health first aid that everyone should remember. Just like first aid, poor mental health requires support and help in order to recover. At the moment, the government is trying to introduce MHFA as a compulsory subject in all businesses. You are more than welcome to get started early and start saving the lives of your employees, colleagues and those you encounter on a day to day basis.