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Helping people in financial crisis and emotional distress

Sherry Nelson, human development specialist Marion County and Northeast Region, University of Missouri Extension & Brenda Procter, M.S., state specialist & instructor, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension


As the national economic crisis evolves, individuals, families and businesses may turn to you or your agency for advice. The impact of this crisis is being felt at all socioeconomic levels as the nation deals with home mortgage defaults and foreclosures, bank and investment firm failures, declining stock prices and home values, dwindling retirement funds, rising unemployment, tighter credit and increased costs for necessities such as food, gasoline and heat.


Financial difficulties often bring about unusually high levels of stress. Uncertainty about the future creates added anxiety, regardless of whether or not people are struggling currently. It is easy to lose perspective during such times. We are providing the following information to help individuals and agencies work with people in crisis in a safe and appropriate manner.


Take Care of Yourself
First and foremost, we recognize that you yourself may be experiencing some of these very problems. Please be aware of your own mental health and financial well-being and seek help when necessary.


Your Role
Individuals and agency roles vary. If you or your agency does not provide mental health or crisis counseling, you will need to make an appropriate referral if someone comes to you in extreme emotional distress or plans to commit suicide. You or someone you work with also could be experiencing a financial crisis and emotional distress. If you are already familiar with mental health agencies in your community, it would be a good time to be sure you and any staff at all levels of your organization have this information. If you are not, consider taking the time to assemble this information, particularly if you are in a role that makes it likely people will turn to you for advice or help.


  • If a client or someone you know tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide, get outside help immediately. Call 911 or local law enforcement. DO NOT ALLOW THE INDIVIDUAL TO LEAVE WITHOUT ENSURING HIS OR HER SAFETY.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. Calls are routed to the closest possible crisis center in your area. With more than 130 crisis centers across the country, their mission is to provide immediate assistance to anyone seeking mental health services. You can call for yourself, or someone you care about. Calls are free and confidential.


The identity of people seeking assistance from you or your agency and any information they share should be treated with strict confidence. This confidentiality standard should particularly apply to all employees of any organization who have contact with people seeking advice, including support staff and receptionists who may take an initial call or screen a walk-in visit.


When working with people who are in distress, it is important to remain non-judgmental and provide objective information as you would expect if it were you in distress. What may be a crisis to someone else may not seem like one to you. It is likely that you will not know all of the circumstances contributing to their distress. It also is important to know yourself and know your views on mental health issues. Be aware of any blind spots that could possibly result from those attitudes and feelings and look past them. Someone’s life could be on the line.





Last update: Monday, November 09, 2009


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