How to help someone through a panic attack
ASSESS for risk of harm - has it happened to them before? If so, do they think it's happening now? It's important that you stay calm yourself, so that you do not add any more stress /anxiety to the person. Remember to introduce yourself (if it’s a stranger!).
REASSURE the person that they’re most likely experiencing a panic attack and that it’s not dangerous. Explain that while what they’re feeling is frightening, the symptoms will pass. As you talk, use short sentences and speak in a clear, firm manner. Be patient and stay with them throughout the attack.
LISTEN in a non-judgemental way and ask them what they think might help (for example, moving away from a crowded area or sitting down). Don’t assume you know what’s best for them.
STAY with the person. Most panic attacks last between 20 and 30 minutes, so don’t leave the person after a minute or two. They need you to be there for them for the duration of the panic attack, and if you leave, that could make things worse.
ENCOURAGE them to talk - this is vital as it will distract them from their thoughts and help to regulate their breathing. Try and get them to talk rationally about how they are feeling, but if asking questions about why they are stressed makes them more panicky, then talk about other things instead.
RECOMMEND self-help and other support strategies, encourage them to talk to family, friends or their GP. Recommend apps like Headspace and Calm. You could also mention that our helpline is available 7 days a week.
Things you can say to help:
"You can get through this." "I am proud of you. Good job." "Tell me what you need now." "Concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present." "It's not the place that is bothering you; it's the thought." "What you are feeling is scary, but it is not dangerous."