We all pass through difficult times at some point in our lives, and we may need some form of additional support.
It is not uncommon that we notice somebody who needs help, or we might be asked to provide some support to help a person get through their difficult time. Let’s take a look at ways in which we may be able to help somebody who is passing through a rough time, and how we can show our support.
The first step towards effective help is listening. Most of the time, when a person looks for help, they do not expect a solution from you, but they would like somebody to listen to them and validate their feelings. When someone is passing through a difficult time, their thoughts may be confused and illogical. Listening to them speak their thoughts and explain themselves can be a way of helping them understand better what they are feeling. When listening, try to understand all that they are saying, and if you don’t, ask them to clarify so you can get a clearer picture of how you can help. This will help them feel understood.
When listening, it is important that we keep the conversation focused on that person’s experience; people rarely want to hear how other people got through a similar situation or hear about how they should try and do the same. Everybody’s experience is different and the process of dealing with it is unique to everyone in terms of time, coping and support systems. Even if you have personally passed through the same thing, express suggestions but do not divert the conversation.
Another way to help is by checking up on them every now and then. When supporting someone, it does not mean spending hours on end with them every day. Sometimes even a five-minute call is enough. When we check up on people it is important that we take note of any changes in their daily routines. If the person used to wake up and walk every day, and now they have stopped, encourage them, without being forceful, to keep their routine as much as possible. Accompanying them to the gym, to work, while cooking or any activity which they enjoyed, may help them gain back their motivation, and may be a big step towards feeling better.
Another positive approach is to help the person find healthy coping mechanisms and strategies to get through the days. Do not assume what the person wants, so don’t push them into action. As stated before, do not base your support on other people’s experiences as it may not work for the person in front of you now.
Ask the person ‘what do you think will help you right now?’, ‘how are you trying to cope?’, ‘Is there anything we can do together that will help?’ It is also important to refrain from trivializing the situation through statements such as ‘this will pass’, ‘life goes on’ and ‘You really shouldn’t feel this way’. In these situations, the best way is to ask ‘is there anything you need from me?’, ‘how can I help?’, ‘I understand that this is very difficult’ and ‘Just let me know if you need anything, I’m here’.
Lastly, providing somebody with the help they need is not always easy, or possible. Professional help may be needed. Encourage and normalise seeking help from professionals. Just like physical illnesses need to be assessed by a doctor, it would be beneficial to guide and support the person to seek professional help if the difficulty is impairing one’s life significantly.
This article was written by Eloise Shoobert, Mental Health Recovery Officer, Richmond Foundation and was published on Newsbook on May 3rd 2021.
If you or someone you know are struggling, reach out by calling 1770, Richmond’s freephone available 24/7 for mental health support.