Skip to main content

How do we react when we encounter a mental health crisis?

Approaching someone with mental health issues needs to be treated with compassion and respect. To make it somewhat easier, follow a step-by-step process to ensure the person struggling receives practical help for their current condition. We use an acronym called ALGEE to help people understand how to deal 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 quickly.

ALGEE is equal to DRAB (first aid); they can both save a life.

DRAB stands for Danger, Response, Airway, and Breathing, which is the acronym used within first aid to assess the situation and determine the correct course of action for a person who requires first aid.

The ALGEE acronym can be illustrated as a circle, meaning? Depending on the situation, you can start with any letter you like when approaching someone.

A – ASSESS (for risk of suicide or harm)


Before approaching someone, have you studied their behaviour? Are they acting differently? Do they remove themselves when someone mentions a particular subject or begin to respond more reservedly? As a mental health first aider, it’s your job to identify anomalies, respect the person’s behaviour and act on them.

By assessing the severity of the person’s condition, you can determine what action to take accordingly and determine how you should approach them about their feelings.

Every person and every mental health issue is different, so it can be challenging 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 despair, we can approach them with the next step.

L – LISTEN (non-judgmentally)


Listening is 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 mental health won’t want to discuss their feelings openly. Still, by approaching them during a quiet period, they’re more likely to. 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 worsen things. Suppose you want to help somebody suffering from a mental health issue. In that case, you will need to adopt patience and understanding.

G – GIVE (information and encouragement)


Getting someone to act on their mental health can be challenging, even with encouragement. However, if you are speaking to someone suffering, 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 (for professional help)


Encouraging can be equally as challenging; however, it’s the right thing to do for anyone suffering. The sooner the person can confront their fears and seek help, the sooner they recover. As an MHFA, you must help them to the best of your ability and encourage professional advice.

You can only help them so far, and sometimes you’ll need to persuade them to seek the help they require. Depression and anxiety require intensive encouragement, especially as many people don’t want to appear to be ‘bothersome’. In this scenario, the best thing to do is discuss options and how you will help them get there. All someone needs are encouragement, and they’re more likely to seek help than they were previously.

However, to enhance your persuasion, ensure you have a rapport with the individual or build trust; that way, they are more likely to listen.

E – Encourage (for self-help or other support)


Talking to the person about participating in activities or hobbies that distract them from their emotions is good. By providing them with 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.