Some psychologists agree that humans have a natural willingness in them to help people and are pre-programmed to reach out to others. Source.

Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health! Giving has greater benefits than receiving, it can reduce stress, improve your self-esteem, and increase feelings of reward. It helps take your mind off your own worries for a little while, and make you feel more connected to others. Source.

Empathy is defined by the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

If you feel you are able to be an ally to someone who needs support and would like to learn more about how, here are some ways for you to do so:

BE DIRECT

If you have noticed a friend or family member acting unusually, the best way to approach this is to be direct with them. If you fear backlash or feel uncomfortable addressing an issue and therefore beat around the bush, you run the risk of miscommunication. To minimize coming across as critical, use “I” statements to take the pressure off of them.

For example: 

When I hear you talking about how unhappy you are, I feel worried. I think it would be really helpful for you to talk to someone about how you’re feeling.

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ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED

Ask them how you can be helpful and offer some suggestions. While it is great to let them know you are there to help when they need it, sometimes they don’t know what could be helpful themselves or they may have trouble putting it into words.

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DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUPPORT:

TANGIBLE

This refers to practical activities.

  • Can you make them a meal?
  • Can you watch their child to allow them to get something done?
  • Can you drive them to an appointment?
  • Can you run errands for them?
  • Can you assist them with moving?

EMOTIONAL

This refers to providing empathy, compassion, and encouragement. At its core, this is all about being there for them.

  • Put your phone or any other distractions away.
  • Let them share as little or as much as they want to.
  • Do not make assumptions or offer unsolicited advice.
  • Validate their feelings- however they feel is real to them.
  • Make them feel heard- “that sounds tough, I am proud of you for hanging in there”.
  • Show that you care- give them a hug and tell them you are there to listen, that they are valued.
  • Remind them of their strengths- “last time you were nervous about a presentation you did SO well, you can do this!”
  • Assist them with establishing a support network. Help them name who they can trust and count on in a number of situations- if they’re feeling depressed, unmotivated, anxious, in crisis, lonely, etc. This may be friends, family members, recreational groups, local organizations, healthcare professionals, teachers, online communities etc.

INFORMATIONAL

This refers to knowledge sharing.

If they are seeking a type of service, you can share which places worked well for you, or assist them with the research! You can also offer suggestions on how to problem-solve their situation, as long as they are realistic.

 

 

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DON’T FORGET YOUR OWN SELF-CARE

When supporting someone proves to be taxing on your own mental health – and it can – remember to put yourself first.

Setting boundaries is an important first step.

Let them know that though you are there to listen, you cannot be their primary contact and are not equipped to handle their needs. “I don’t want to make things worse for you since I am not qualified to handle this situation.” We ALL need support, and helpers dedicate a lot of their time and energy which can feel draining. If we don’t receive care for caring, we are more likely to burnout and that isn’t helpful for anyone.

At the end of the day, it is not your job to “fix” or “rescue” someone, all you can do is help where you can and to give them the stepping stones to do the hard work on their own, and to support them in the process.

 

 

 

 

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Illustration: <a href=”https://www.vecteezy.com/free-vector/talk”>Talk Vectors by Vecteezy</a>

Illustration: <a href=”https://www.vecteezy.com/free-vector/talk”>Talk Vectors by Vecteezy</a>

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