- You don’t have to be a therapist, have a close relationship, or even know what to say, to be able to help someone who is struggling.
- For most people who are struggling, simply knowing that someone cares enough to start a conversation, means the world to them
- It’s best not to come with solutions or answers, but to listen deeply, and let them know that you’re there to support them.
Every one of us has the inherent ability to be a support to another person. If you see signs that someone you know is struggling, you can be a great support to them by asking if they are OK and being willing to listen and get them to help if needed. Don't ever underestimate the power you have to connect with another person and help them find hope and stay safe.
“I think the biggest thing that has helped me is connection. I think mental illness, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, they breed disconnection. It's almost natural to isolate. I've learnt that whilst disconnection and sometimes isolation is almost a default for me, connection is the antidote to that.”
Tanya’s story of holding on to hope
What are some signs to look out for?
Knowing whether someone needs support, and whn you should reach out is really hard. Having a difficult time looks different for everyone, but here are some common signs to look out for:
- Withdrawing from others and social activities
- Has emotional outbursts
- Increases their use of drugs or alcohol
- Withdraws from work or school
- Stops replying to messages, phone calls, or emails
- Talks about ‘not wanting to be around anymore’ or ‘not seeing the piont of anything’ or similar
How to start the conversation
Picking a time when they feel comfortable and might be willing to have a conversation is really important.
You might like to start by naming what you’ve noticed that has made you concerned, but it’s important to do so without being judgemental. You might say something like “I’ve noticed you haven’t been coming out as much lately, and I wanted to check in to ask how you’re doing”.
Let them know that you’re there for them, that you care, and that it’s ok for them to share what’s going on, if they feel comfortable.
Focus on listening to what they’re saying, and avoid the tempation to jump to solutions, to highlight the silver lining, or to minimise the problem or feeling they’re expressing. It’s ok to not have the answers, or to not know what to say. You can even say something like “I don’t even know what to say, I’m just so glad you told me”.
Encourage them to seek help wherever they feel most comfortable. This might be their GP, family or friend, religious or community leader, or anyone they feel they can trust.
Is it ok to talk about suicide?
Yes, you shouldn’t be hesitant to ask about suicidal thoughts if you’re worried about someone.
Research has shown that you’re not likely to ‘put ideas in their head’ or similar. In fact, getting suicidal thoughts out into the open is likely to help people identify they need help, seek support, and put in place strategies to stay safe.
Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. It needs to be a direct question that can’t be misinterpreted such as: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
If they're thinking about taking their own life, encourage them to call Lifeline on 13 11 14 - or you can reach out on their behalf, we can help you keep them safe.
If you are worried about the immediate safety of the person contact emergency services on 000.