Are you unsure what to do or say when someone is depressed, anxious, angry, sad and needing support?
Do you worry you will say the wrong thing? Here are a few tips for being an effective support person or friend.
Firstly, active listening - this is the kind of listening that involves not only what the person is saying, but hearing the 'feeling' component of a person's message and reflecting it back.
For example, "You're feeling betrayed that he bypassed your opinion on this." This allows the person to not only feel heard and understood, but to also clarify if the listener gets it wrong. This can build understanding.
Secondly, don't assume you know the cause of the person's issue - the way people respond or react is the tip of the iceberg. It is important to redefine the issue in terms of needs.
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By simply asking someone, "What do you need right now?" might be enough to move from the 'story' to the feeling component. When the need is known and shared, we can be clearer about how to help. Active listening is a strategic way of moving from the presenting issue or problem, to the deep need of the person.
Thirdly, do not be afraid to ask confronting questions if you are worried about someone's safety. It is perfectly OK, and important, to ask someone if they are suicidal.
For example, "Have you thought about suicide?" or for self-harm, "Have you been hurting yourself?" We cannot be afraid to ask these questions. These questions save lives.
Being a support person isn't about having the answers. It's about connection. It is about letting the person know that they are valued and cared for.
If you need help;
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Griffith Suicide Prevention and Support Group: 1300 133 911
- Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
- Beyondblue: 1300 224 636