Wednesday, 10 September 2014

How to be there for a friend...

It's World Suicide Prevention Day. To mark it, I am writing about how we can all take little, individual steps to truly prevent suicide.

One of the hardest things we go through in life is having to witness a friend experiencing a crisis. Whether it be the break-up of a long-term relationship, the death of a close relative, or struggling with mental illness, it can be a real test of friendship to be supportive in these situations. It's not always easy to offer help, and it's not always easy to know what the right thing to do is.

So here are my tips on how to be there for a friend who is going through a crisis:

  • Reach out. Contact them. Connect. Ask them to meet up/catch up/hang out. It really helps to know that someone out there is thinking about you, even when you don't have the strength to reply.

  • Listen. Allow them to spill their guts, or to share only as much as they are comfortable with. Don't judge. Don't add comparisons to your own personal experiences. You don't even have to make helpful suggestions. Sometimes all someone needs is somebody to vent to. Someone to be alone with. Be that person. 

  • Empathize. You can still emotionally support someone without comparisons and saying 'I know how you feel'. That phrase can come across as condescending, and every problem, every situation is different. Everyone's experiences are unique. Instead, use phrases like, 'This must be really hard for you.' 'I'm so sorry to hear this.' & 'How are you?'

  • Offer help - Ask them what you can do for them to make things easier. Even if this is just to make a cup of tea.

  • Bring Food. Or a coffee. The little things help, and often when you're in a crisis you forget to look after yourself.

  • Patience is key. Let them cry. Let them get angry. And then let them go through the motions all over again.

  • Don't give up. Don't take their excuse not to meet up as a reason to abandon them. Keep checking in. Be persistent. And a little bit annoying if you have to be.

  • Get professional help. You can only do so much and at times you might have to refer your friend on to professional help. If there is a risk of self-harm or suicide always make sure you take action. Check out Pieta House's Action Plan for Self Harm here. And their Suicide Action Plan here

  • Look after yourself. Often we forget to care for ourselves when we're caring for someone else. But to be of any help to a friend it's important to know your own limits and your own triggers. Know that you can't fix someone else's problems by yourself.

There are many ways to help a friend in crisis.

Don't be so quick to share personal stories, judge, or dish out advice. Sometimes you just have to be there. Ask. & Listen. 

No comments:

Post a Comment