5 simple ways to help a young person having a panic attack
It can be hard to know what to say or do when a young person is feeling very anxious, and even more challenging if they have a panic attack. So, here is our collection of easy ways to help:
1. Stay Calm
While it can be very difficult seeing a young person in distress, it is important to remember that the young person is safe, so you do not need to panic. By keeping calm yourself, it will help the young person to calm down too.
2. Be reassuring
By this, we don't mean telling them they they have nothing to panic about. Telling the young person that there is nothing to panic about is likely to make them panic more, as it may make them feel like you are not taking their panic attack seriously, or not listening to them.
Instead, reassure them that they are going to be ok, and that you're there to help. Make it clear that you will stay with them for as long as they need, and that it will all be ok.
3. Remind them to breathe
This sounds silly, but in the middle of a panic attack, it is easy for breathing to get irregular, making other symptoms worse too.
Ask them to focus on their breathing, taking breaths in through their nose, and out through their mouth. They can close their eyes while they do this if they'd like.
4. Ask if they'd like to move somewhere quieter
In a busy environment like a school, the young person having a panic attack might get lots of attention from other young people who want to help. As well-meaning as this may be, a crowd could be overwhelming and make the panic attack worse. Ask the young person if they'd like to go somewhere quieter. If that isn't possible, ask the other young people to give the person having a panic attack some space. One friend might like to stay and be supportive, but a whole group of people crowding around is likely to make things worse.
5. Distract them
Help them to calm down by distracting the young person from their panic. Talk to them about something very inane and insignificant. They may not feel able to join in the conversation and that's ok. Just listening to you speak may be the distraction they need. However, if they ask you to be quiet, respect their wishes as they may be trying to use their own strategies to calm down, or they may just want some quiet time because having a panic attack can be a very exhausting experience.
Find out more about emotional resilience and wellbeing on our course.