Emotional support in a crisis

Advice and an activity for teachers to use with pupils on how best to support someone who is upset.

A young woman speaks in a group.
Teacher briefing, quick activity
First aid and the bystander effect

Being with someone who is experiencing acute emotional upset happens to most people at some time. A common feeling is wanting to help but not being sure what to do for the best.

This teacher briefing explains how to respond calmly and positively to someone who is distressed or upset. The simple classroom activity that follows explores students' attitude to providing emotional support.


Learning objectives

Teachers will:

  • be provided with advice for different ways to help a young person or child who is upset
  • be able to recognise when someone needs support
  • think about what to avoid when talking to someone who is distressed
  • understand the importance of recognising if they themselves are calm enough to support someone else.

Learners will:

  • consider the best ways of helping someone who is upset
  • discuss each other’s opinions on how to help others.


Resource overview

1. Teacher briefing

  • Explore situations when people may need emotional support.
  • Assess the situation and decide on the first step in supporting someone.
  • Consider body language and what to say to help someone who is upset.
  • Common mistakes to avoid when offering support.
  • Exploring what the options for support are.

2. Activity

  • Display statements with young people’s opinions of how to help someone who needs support. Learners discuss which ones they agree and disagree with and draw on their personal experience.


This briefing is based on research and development work by Dr Sarah Davidson and was written by P J White and Dr Sarah Davidson. It was produced in March 2009. The classroom activity was published in December 2011. It was reviewed in June 2013.

The photo of young people speaking in a group © Steve Debenport/iStock.


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