Looking Out For Each Other
November 6, 2013
We have all experienced, to one degree or another, some aspects of the mental health issues we are exploring on this website. Many of us have gone through difficult times and have managed to pull through or have developed skills that help us cope. We have all known friends, family members, lovers, or coworkers that have struggled as well. There is a lot that we can learn and share about our experiences. Mental health concerns come up in our lives and chances are we will be in a situation where we may need to offer support.
If somebody we know is struggling, our support can be helpful. If that person is very close to us, a partner or close friend, it can be hard for us as well. It can be hard to see someone we care for in pain. We may also feel frustrated with them. These feelings are normal.
In order to be a strong source of support we need to make sure that we have support for ourselves. We may need to talk through our own experiences with people we are close to who can offer us support. We may not want to admit it, but offering support to people can be a lot of effort sometimes. Especially if they don’t seem to be getting better, seem to be ignoring our attempts to cheer them up, or maybe even lashing out at us. Whether it is anxiety, stress, depression, or something related to trauma it helps if we understand the issue that they are dealing with and know that underneath it all they are still the same person.
Often when people are going through difficult times they can pull away from friends and loved ones. Sometimes it can feel like we are being pushed away. It is good to remember at times like these how important it is to have people that stick by us in hard times.
Sometimes we can make the issues harder, and make people pull away by saying things like “look on the bright side”, “it’s not so bad” or “tomorrow’s a new day.” People can feel shame when struggling with mental health and sometimes these types of statements can actually make them feel worse. Also, we should be careful not to try to make people talk to us about what they are going through if they aren’t ready. Some things are really hard to talk about. We can let them know we are there to listen to them when they are ready to talk.
We can’t fix anybody. We can’t wave a magic wand and make people’s problems disappear. But we can listen, offer words of support, and keep an eye out for each other.
Be honest with yourself about the amount and kind of support you can offer. Make sure you get help yourself if you are having problems coping with the situation. If it becomes too difficult or painful to offer support it is okay to say so. Just remember, the way that you do this is important. You can tell people that you are finding it hard and let them know that you care about them and want them to feel supported. The truth is, sometimes it takes a long time to work through some of the issues that impact us and it may require therapy or professional help.
- Are you worried a friend/lover/partner might hurt themselves?
- Ask them if they are thinking about hurting or killing themselves
- Ask them if they have a plan to do it
- People are more likely to attempt suicide if they have an active plan to do it and the means to carry it out
- Ask them if they think it would be helpful to get a professional assessment
- Offer to go with them to a hospital emergency department
If you are concerned your friend may kill themselves and they are not cooperating to seek help, you can call 911 and explain the situation on the phone. But in most circumstances, if you are open and up front with a friend, and they are serious about taking their life, they will go with you to an emergency department
If you are uncertain what to do, you can also call a distress line and seek advice from a professional
It is important that you remember that you are not in control of another person and it is not within your power to prevent suicide if that is something someone wants. The best thing you can do is listen without judgment, be supportive and compassionate, and be direct. Be clear that you are concerned about their well being and that you think they might benefit from a professional assessment, and that you would like to go with them to an emergency department to talk to a doctor, or sit with them while they call a distress line.
If you are looking for information and referral services in Ontario:
ConnexOntario offers province-wide information and referral services for those with mental health or addiction challenges. You can visit their website at: www.connexontario.ca or you can call the following numbers which operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Mental Health Helpline, 1-866-531-2600
- Drug and Alcohol Helpline, 1-800-565-8603
- Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline, 1-888-230-3605
Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youthline is a toll-free Ontario-wide peer-support phone line for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, 2-spirited, queer and questioning young people. The Youth Line provides online peer-support through the online forum and email response. You can visit them at their website, www.youthline.ca or call 1-800-268-9688
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