You notice that a friend is suffering and you want to help, but may be reluctant to take action. You may feel it’s not your place to say anything. You may be worried about saying the wrong thing and potentially making the problem worse, or what might happen if you do intervene.
With shows like Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and the hit Broadway musical, Dear Evan Hansen, issues of loneliness, depression, and social anxiety are being talked about quite often these days. So how do you help someone in trouble? What can you do to help someone who is going through deep emotional pain? What can you say to help someone who might be considering hurting themselves?
Most people who are hurting just want to be heard. Let your loved one know that you care; let them know you’re there for them, but above all, listen to what they’re saying. It may not seem like you’re doing much, but you really are. Just listen. You don’t need to take a big action or try to rescue them. You may worry that if you validate their emotions it will make the situation worse, or make the person feel sadder, but the opposite is true. It can be tough, but do your best to try and listen through their discomfort with the goal of making them feel heard and understood.
What Not To Do
Too much optimism or “look on the bright side” talk might make your friend feel more alone and push him or her back toward maladaptive patterns and negative behaviors. Don’t try to cheer them up by saying things like “Well, at least ______ is good” or “Hey, it could be worse.” This could come across as minimizing their feelings. Don’t try to correct, blame, or criticize. Unless your loved one specifically asks for your help in figuring out a game plan, don’t try to “fix” the problem. This strategy could backfire and leave them feeling more isolated and alone.
Finding Professional Help in Austin
You can help by researching local resources in your area, such as crisis hotlines, emergency services, individual therapy, group therapy, intensive outpatient programs, and medication/psychiatric providers. Be encouraging and let them know you think they will benefit from the support a mental health professional can provide. If they’re resistant to the idea or can’t follow through at this point, refrain from reacting with anger or judgment. As well-intentioned as your suggestions might be, it will probably take some time for your loved one to accept the idea of seeking professional help.