A simple 3 step guide to helping overcome suicidal thoughts; step three could surprise you!
In this blog, I’ve shared a great deal about how we can overcome the obstacles that lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations on our own. That’s important because the change that affects you must start with you or it won’t work. However, there’s a side to Finding Your Personal Mission that I have not highlighted here as much yet that I’d like to focus on today. How can we help others who may be dealing with this? You may be surprised to read this is a simple process.
Yes. Simple. As I’ve said in this blog and pointed out many times from the stage however, simple does not mean easy. It’s as simple as 1-2-3.
Start the conversation: In the introduction to Finding Your Personal Mission, I discussed how I was able to reach out to a friend on that fateful night in September 2017. It cannot be stressed enough that this is the exception, not the rule. I was able to muster up the Herculean strength to reach out that night, but I would not have been in that position had I not bypassed the chances to reach out many times before. During that time, I would post to social media sites about frustrations I was dealing with (being vague of course), and well-meaning friends would say something like this. “My inbox is open. Message me if you need to talk.” You already know how that went.
Perhaps you’ve been there too. I would say chances are high you have. You desperately need the help, but you are not asking for it. (I cover this in the first two chapters on Impostor Syndrome.) Then you know how difficult it is to ask for help, and you know how hollow “my inbox is open” sounds to someone who needs help. You need to start that conversation. How do you start it? Here are a few ideas.
“How can I help?” Simple and straight to the point. Expect some pushback if you ask this question. “I don’t need help!” If that happens, be gentle but firm. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. Let me help you.” Assure them that you’re not undermining them, but rather you’re offering to help them up, and above all else MEAN IT!
“How are you holding up?” This question is low-key powerful because it demonstrates that you know they’re dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety. But it also shows that you know they’re strong and capable. Again, when you ask this question, be sincere. Nothing will ruin things more than being disingenuous. In fact, if you’re not being genuine, don’t ask the question at all. Yes, I’m being serious. If you aren’t genuinely trying to help someone you know deal with serious issues like stress, anxiety, or depression as well as things like Impostor Syndrome, anger issues, or any of the myriad of other things a person can deal with, then quite simply don’t start at all.
Listen more than you talk: This is not about you, nor is it about the day you’ve had. When you start the conversation with someone who is struggling, and you make it all about you, I can guarantee that you will lose the person you’re claiming to want to help. Start the conversation, and then keep your words to a minimum. Respond when they need an answer, and ask clarifying questions, but that’s all you need to do for a while. Above all, do not offer solutions, especially ones that have demonstrated you’re not really listening. We’ve all been there.
“Well what you need to do is…” That will do far more to damage your ability to help than you realize. Listen to what they have to say.
Be ready to hear things you won’t like: As the dam breaks and unpleasant memories, thoughts, and actions are shared, be prepared to hear some things that you don’t want to hear. There is nothing wrong with this. I have sat down to listen to people who shared with me how they thought I was stuck up, rude, annoying, and a number of other things. I can’t say I always handled it well, but I am learning. This goes back to the last point of listening more than you talk. When you hear these things, do not react. Just listen. Do not get defensive. Do not seek to justify yourself or your point of view. If you want to make a difference in someone’s life who’s dealing with stress, just listen. You’ll help far more than you realize.
It’s not complicated to help someone who’s dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s actually very simple. But it could be the hardest simple thing you ever do to start the conversation, listen more than you speak, and not react when you hear things you don’t like. Just remember that it’s worth it.