Supporting others is a great thing to do, however you have to make sure that it is healthy and safe for all involved.
Often it can be overwhelming supporting someone with their mental health. You don't want to say something that would make things worse or dismiss them in anyway (check out my post on what not to say). But at the same time you really need to look after yourself and practice self care and maybe even get some support yourself.
So here are a few ideas to look after yourself, this isn't exhaustive but some of these things may be helpful to keep yourself healthy.
You know when you're on the plane and they say "Make sure you fit your own oxygen mask before assisting others". The same principle can be applied here. If you aren't looking after your own wellbeing, it will be very hard and potentially detrimental to spend a lot of energy supporting others. This is why self care is so important. Make sure you look after your physical and mental health (check out my earlier post on keeping your mind and body healthy). Keep in touch with your friends and family and make sure you have someone to talk things through with. If you need support or are finding it overwhelming supporting someone, it is a great idea to talk to a professional - they can give you strategies to support others and yourself.
Check out this brilliant article from SANE - Self care after someone discloses suicidal thoughts.
How to ask - Are you ok?
Each year, R U OK? day happens in Australia - it's a great initiative and people do ask each other on that day if they are ok - but what if they don't say yes, or you're not convinced that they really are. Here are a few strategies to help.
First of all, remember it is ok to just listen. Don't necessarily try to fix all their problems. If someone discloses that they are doing it tough at the moment. Often a simple "I'm so sorry to hear that, that sounds really hard" can be helpful and also validating. Listening is often the best thing that can be done, ask questions to prompt the person rather than simply trying to give all the answers.
Open up a conversation - maybe you could ask "Is there anything you want to talk about?" If they don't want to at the moment, let them know that they can whenever they feel comfortable. If someone finds it hard to open up, a good way might be to even send them a text as a gateway to having an in person conversation or go for a walk together, it's often much easier to talk about difficult things when you don't feel time constrained or aren't directly facing a person.
One thing that is extremely important is checking to make sure the person is connected with a professional who can help. If not, maybe suggest that they do - a doctor is a great place to start or maybe a phone line such as lifeline (13 11 14) especially if a person is in crisis or a service like headspace. If they are worried about going, maybe you can suggest that you can drop them off, wait for them in the waiting room or even go with them depending on your relationship (do what suits them best). Or if seeing a professional in person seems to scary, maybe connect them with a web counselling service.
Check out this article from SANE - Supporting someone having thoughts of suicide
A conversation can honestly have a profound effect on someone who is struggling and can make a world of difference.
How have you supported someone or how has someone supported you? Let me know what was and wasn't helpful!
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000. If you live outside Australia, link to worldwide crisis numbers can be found in the sidebar.