So, you think or just have a gut feeling that a family member, friend or colleague is not OK or going through something difficult… They may seem irritated, withdrawn or just different. Or perhaps they’re “acting fine” when times are tough, but you’re just kind of picking up on a weird vibe… Trust your gut: it’s always a good idea to be curious and pay attention to signals and vibes you’re picking up on.
But what to do if you notice someone is upset, but not sharing anything about it? Should you be the one to bring it up and ask them? In short, the answer is YES!
Why should you do that? Well, because people who are going through challenges might be afraid or ashamed to talk about it, and if you are afraid to ask, that person is likely to stay in that hurtful cycle. The good news is, you could be that very person that breaks the ice and opens the door to a healing conversation.
How do you approach them and what to ask? Its simple, all it takes is these five steps:
Initiate a conversation. It can be as simple as asking “Are you ok?” or something like “Is there anything you would like to share?”. Asking a question or letting that person know that you would like to support them can really change someone’s life for the better, even save a life. Therefore, don’t underestimate the power of words and genuinely asking someone about how they are feeling.
We often think we need to give extraordinary advice and offer a genius, quick-fix solution right away. Sadly, this form of pressure often stops us from reaching out to people. The reality, however, is very much different. People that are experiencing challenges in life
usually first need to be heard and to be listened to, more so than they need advice. Giving someone our undivided attention is rather valuable, so tune in and listen very carefully!
Create a “safe space”
A safe space is a space where people know and feel free that they can be themselves without judgement. This includes sharing their experiences, challenges, emotions and thoughts. Let go of jumping to conclusions, attacking or interrupting and allow the person to release their point of view and the emotions that come along with it.
Talk it through
Just talking alone is an act of releasing energy, and for those stuck in hurt, pain or sadness, talking can be very therapeutic. Feel free to exchange thoughts, experiences and your insight or feedback about what the other person says. It may not be professional advice, but the simple act of a conversation can still have healing properties.
Direct to other resources
Even though as family or friends we can help a great deal, most of us are not experts in mental health. So, it’s worthwhile doing a bit of research about the potential places that would offer helpful services. For most mental health challenges, there are national phone services or at least websites with chat options available. Also, there are a lot of non-government organisations that specialize in more niche areas. These are some popular resources to start with:
- R U Okay – Suicide Prevention society (https://www.ruok.org.au/)
- Mental Health line – Speak to a professional (https://www.cclhd.health.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/MentalHealthLine.pdf)
- 1800RESPECT – Counselling service hotline that works 24/7 for sexual assault, domestic or family violence (https://www.1800respect.org.au/)
- Butterfly Foundation – Eating disorders support (https://butterfly.org.au/)
- Beyond Blue – Info and support with anxiety, depression and suicide prevention (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/)
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