Crisis situations don’t happen all by themselves, or in a vacuum. (try our cpi certificate or our crisis intervention training) There are things you might see as precursors to a crisis. Maybe even situations that occur in and around the crisis situation that actually makes it the biggest, most turbulent part of the crisis. The reality is, that when one individual is in crisis, be on the lookout for others who may be affected by that crisis and who may then go into crisis themselves.

When I worked on the adolescent unit we would have patients who would superficially cut themselves. They would take staples, or something similar, and scratch little lines on their wrists. It was just enough to draw blood. Obviously, it wasn’t going to kill them, but they did it anyway. Were they crying out for attention? Absolutely. Did they need us to respond? Absolutely. Did we have to respond? Were we legally obligated to respond? Yes. Was it frustrating? Yes, because more often than not, when one individual would cut themselves the staff would focus on them, saying things like, “Okay, put the staple down,” or “Please, let’s talk about it, you don’t need to do this.” It would make a big commotion, with the staff trying to de-escalate the situation.

While all this is going on, another patient would be watching and, even though the attention was negative, in their mind, the other patient is getting all the attention, so, in order to get their share of attention, they would go into crisis, as well.

In law enforcement there is a term meaning to be on the lookout: BOLO. It’s used to notify officers to be on the lookout for a certain person or a certain vehicle. It’s a good concept to keep in mind when working in an environment where crisis situations occur. It serves as a reminder in these situations to think to yourself, “BOLO, I’m on the lookout for other things in the nearby area.” You want to make sure not to focus too much attention in only one area. If you do that, you may miss what else might be going on off to the side, around the corner, or in a different part of the unit.

Make sure you stay alert, you keep a high sense of awareness, and you’re cognizant of not just the individual in crisis, but other surrounding areas, as well. The, person in crisis might be just causing a distraction, so the real crisis can happen behind your back.