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World Mental Health Day: What To Do When Someone Asks for Help

Today, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. By 2020, depression will be the leading disability illness in developed countries. With the incredible growth of social media, we’re now more connected, yet we’re feeling lonelier than ever before. It is highly likely that you or someone close to you has suffered or is suffering from either loneliness, depression or both. How can we use these staggering statistics that are so close to home and put them into action? 

The other day, a close friend of mine cried to me for help. It wasn’t a cry filled with tears, it was a silent but “screaming inside” desperate kind of cry because she had nowhere else to go, or no one else to talk to. As an empath, sometimes you’d love to help everyone, however it’s easy to give, give, give and lose yourself along the way as their issues becomes yours. Or, if you have issues of your own, which most of us do, it’s also easy to put yourself in your own little world of problems and block out other’s. So how do you help someone who’s in a dark headspace without losing yourself or doing them more damage than good?

Know your boundaries

Do you remember when you were a child and you used to set up fortresses at home with pillows and sheets to create an exciting den? These dens were pretty special, and were usually built to keep your parents out or even your siblings, but at the same time you were secretly proud of what you had created and wanted to share them. Imagine an invisible fortress around you right now, the fortress is cosy and welcoming however just like the fortress you built when you were a kid, but you need to be careful not to make it too open and welcoming in case anyone thinks they can step into your space. The same principle applies when it comes to offering your hand to help. If someone is needing your hand, your ear, your wisdom or your physical presence, take a moment and tune into how your body is feeling before you make the commitment. Tune into the present moment. Are you feeling calm and strong right now, despite there being other issues floating around? Yes? Then help. Or are you feeling exhausted and emotional, and feel like you could crack any second? Then, take a moment for yourself first, breathe, gain that strength back, and maybe even ask for your own support if you need. Earlier this year, I needed someone to talk to, someone to comfort me and someone to tell me that “I wasn’t crazy” and “everything will be ok”. I got the help I needed, and as karma has it, I recently was put in a situation to give that same help to someone else. Whilst you get the help you need, in the meantime, do send the person a kind-hearted friendly message just to let them know that you’re there and thinking of them. Something is better than nothing.

Always show respect

Sometimes we think that tough love is the solution, similarly to "being cruel to be kind”. This tough love is usually given to that of an addict, or child, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions. Tough love is about giving them some heartache now, with the intention to help them gain the strength and insight they will acquire in the future. When someone is going through a difficult time, usually their actions and behaviour is extreme, especially to the ones they love most of all. They might shout, they might send out an immense amount of negative energy and say or do things that will hurt you. It’s easy to lose your patience, to shout back, and to even shut them out all together by giving them that tough love. You must remind yourself that their actions and their behaviours are not them, they are symptoms of the illness, and the more “tough love” you give, the more vulnerable, scared and potentially destructive they’ll be. Always show that you care, and always respect them, they’re unwell human beings. Think, act wisely and considerately. Avoid short words and responses like “Why?” and “No”. They don’t know. It’s better to ask them long questions like “Why do you want to do this?”.

Have a support team

Sometimes the one crying for help can be too much for you alone to handle. Therefore, two on one is always more powerful than one on one. Remember, it’s important not to involve someone whom the person in need won’t feel comfortable with, even if they’re a close family member. You need to be aware of who else they have been trying to reach out to, and who has been kind enough to be there. Head over to their place, have a calming tea, and help create a safe place of trust, comfort and security. Or have your back-up support take on some duties you can’t do, like dropping off some soup or giving them a call to make sure they’re ok.

The support team not only helps take a load off your shoulders, it also makes the person in need feel that they truly aren’t alone.  

Listen, ask questions and validate

When someone is in a dark place, there is nothing worse than being told “you’ve got issues”. They know they are going through some challenging times which have no doubt triggered some mental issues. Their mind is already filled with negative, scary thoughts, and they don’t need people, especially those closest contributing to their insecurity. The next time someone cries to you for help, be there for them, whether it be on the other end of a phone call, a tsunami of text messages or even better, to be there in person. First of all, listen. Allow them to vent, and get what they need off their chest. The next step is incredibly important, and that is to ask them questions rather than give immediate advice, because sometimes that advice is not entirely what they need, and that advice, whilst it seems right, is only coming from your mouth based on your past experiences and knowledge. Unless you have shared a similar past experience, be careful what advice you give as you don’t know what situation they’re in. Ask them questions to help them think about the problem, to help them gain insight, and to help them tap into their feelings so that they can come to some conclusions themselves. Be honest, tell them that you’ve never been in their situation, but let them know that you can see where they’re coming from and that you understand. Always say something along the lines of “I hear what you’re saying, I understand. What can I do to help?” Finally, remind them that they matter. They aren’t useless, they aren’t a mess and their life will get better; and once it does, remind them that they’ll be stronger and wiser than ever before. Do you remember how they were before they got into this dark place? Were they kind, beautiful and smart? Well, they still are, it’s just buried underneath the illness. So, remind them. Tell them they’re beautiful, caring and smart. They need some reassurance that they are not the crazy, sad person they have become. They’re still awesome, and they’re just needing a little support from someone who cares and will help them rise again.

At the end of the day, it’s up to them to truly want to build themselves back up again and to find the happiness within. The most important thing of all is to know that you are not fully responsible for them. Just be aware of the situation they’re in, be there, and be fair to not only them, but to yourself. When someone cries for help. Help, because you never know when you’ll need it.

 

1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness, yet many don’t seek help because of stigma. We can all do something to help shed a more positive light on mental health. You can learn more about World Mental Health Day here


SACARE's Clifford House provides accommodation for up to 58 residents in single or shared accommodation who present with a range of mental illnesses. Read more here.

 

 



If you or someone else are needing some immediate support do not hesitate to call:

 LifeLine Australia: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636  

MensLine: 1300 78 99 78

Or for emergency situations: 000

 

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