By The Hey Mate Project

The Hey Mate Project is pretty special. It is a mental health and wellbeing service for performing artists, creatives and the wider community. This kind of support & service is so important and we are right behind them in making asking when you need it easier .We are grateful they have let us share this post. 

For more advice you can visit The Hey Mate Project here and on Instagram

It can be hard to know what do you with a friend who experiences panic attacks or panic disorder. While its important to be there, offer your support and encourage your friend get help from a professional. It is also very important to look after yourself.

This information can help if you:

  • Have someone in your life who experiences panic attacks, anxiety or panic disorder.
  • Want information on how to help someone who has panic attacks.
  • Need help to learn how to help your friend and also look after your own wellbeing.

How to help:
Firstly make sure you are aware of what the signs of a panic attack can look like including a racing heart or palpitations sweating, shortness of breath or feelings of choking, dizziness, trembling or shaking, numbness or a tingling sensation, hot and cold flashes, fear of dying or of losing control , feeling nauseous or an upset stomach or feeling removed from yourself or what is going on around you.

Be cool, calm and collected.
It is important to remain composed and speak to your friend or loved one calmly. It is good to try and remain fair minded, remember that they might not act like themselves as they are going through a fight or flight response. Try not to take anything they do or say personally.

Ask to lend a hand.
Find out if your friend has had a panic attack before and if they have preferred copying methods. It is important to remember that during a panic attack the person experiencing it will find it hard to think, remember and answer questions. It is always a good idea to ask ahead of time of going to gigs, events etc if they have a copying method so you know for the next time they experience panic attack.

It’s time to help.
When taking action it is important to remain calm and use a soothing but normal tone of voice. Do not tell them not to worry or dismiss what they are saying, focus on taking action.

Some things to try:

  • Find quiet space: Find the Hey Mate Gig Initiative Tent or a quiet space away from any triggers.
  • Get comfortable: Help them get comfy by sitting or lying down.
  • Take big breaths: Prompt your friend to take slow breaths in (1, 2, 3) and out ( 1, 2, 3), keep repeating until they are copying your breathing or “mirroring” you.
  • Five things: Get your friend to name five things they can see, hear, smell or feel.
  • Counting: Counting backwards from 100.
  • Support them: Remind them that they’re experiencing a panic attack and it will go away soon.
  • Five things: Get your friend to name five things they can see, hear, smell or feel.

Support their feelings.
It can be hard for people to share their mental health experiences and might feel judged or that they won’t be taken seriously. It is important to use empathy and not to judge. During a panic attack, even when everything is safe and fine, the danger your friend feels is very real. Don’t dismiss what the are feeling and don’t say things like “Why are you being weird?”, “Whats wrong with you?”, “Don’t worry” or ” Everything is fine”.

Keeping yourself safe.
It can be hard looking after a friend with panic attacks and it is normal to feel exhausted after experiencing one and supporting them. It is important to make sure you care for yourself as well.Somethings that can help are practicing careless including eating healthy, exercising and sleeping, setting clear boundaries, keeping up with social outings and activities that you love and talking to someone you trust about how you feel.

Now what?

Some final things you can do are:

  • Ask your friend about what support they’d like from you and what expectations they might have.
  • Assist your friend in finding professional help eg: booking in to go to the GP or finding a service that matches with their lifestyle eg: The Hey Mate Project work with creatives and people who work in the creative industries. 
  • Remember that you can support them but it is not your job to fix them.

If you or someone you know needs help or further support please contact Lifeline, The Hey Mate Project, Beyond Blue, The Black Dog Institute or