As part of my work for ZGBTST, I encounter many different types of people on a 1-1 basis per week. One of the most common kind is those who are suffering with their own personal demons and their families have asked me to try my hand at talking to them. One of the hardest things to do, is to talk to someone you love about their mental state – I understand this entirely.Usually, after I have spoken to them, families usually query on how they can help their loved one and talk more openly and how they can further understand what is happening.
Another form of advice I give is for those who attend the workshops I host, during the presentation they resonate some facts/signs/symptoms and connect them to someone close in their lives, however they cannot find the words to say.
I am not a doctor, I am not a trained counsellor, I do not go into people’s houses and treat them like a patient that I am trying to cure. I just do the best I can to ease them into talking to someone who has a listening ear.
The way I speak to people and how I find words to say comes from experiences with Zachary, things I have learned by attending workshops, my gut instinct and things that have been said to me by others, some who are professional and some who are not. Obviously, the reason why ZGBTST was started was to share Zachary’s experiences to deter another from feeling like him, to raise the profile of mental health and the importance to destigmatise suicide, however as I develop, watch and change, the story of ZGBTST is much beyond anything I have experienced before and not every person I meet or attempt to help is the same.
This post is to be used in conjunction with professional advice.
Number 1 – Your Own Self Care
It is not advised to try and help someone if your own mind-set is struggling. It is important to ensure you are mentally and emotionally prepared for their response/lack of response. You will only be able to take on their emotional struggles if you have enough ‘brain space’ to do so. One of the worst things I have experienced personally is the strain someone else’s problems can have on my own mental health, I can find myself in a situation of panic and constant worry if I am not careful about approaching them with a wider mind-set which is ready to on take more feelings, connections and troubles of another person on top of my own.
Number 2 – Wording
‘Look on the bright side’
‘It could be worse’
‘You are being negative’
If I have learnt one thing, it is that people with depression already know they are being negative, therefore the separation from the outside world, the distancing from family members and decrease in social activity heightens. They already do not want their negative thoughts impacting on others and they also do not want those who care about them to see them upset. The reality is, when depression hits, you are not always able to see the positive side to anything, the bright side does not exist and you are convinced that nothing could be worse than what you are feeling.
When these words are used, it comes across as though the feelings of depression can be altered just by you telling someone to stop being negative. This isn’t the case. Depression is a chemical imbalance of hormones in the brain, not a feeling of negativity that can be brushed off. It is more important to try and understand, when, where and why the feeling of deep sadness was formed, to gain better knowledge of the catalyst, it is then you can begin to break down the barriers between you and someone else. It is here you need to get to before progress can be made.
Number 3 – Real Communication
I speak about social media constantly through the Trust, I even experience the negative side to it myself. Knowing that a simple text message can change someone’s mood is important, but that only goes so deep. Unless you are hundreds of miles away – nothing is more beneficial than meeting with someone face to face, having a real conversation. It is here, that they cannot hide their emotions, especially if you know this person on a close level. Your gut instinct will drive the conversation and don’t be afraid of your own lack of understanding, every moment you spend and every response you get means you are constantly learning more. Everyone who has a social media account lives two lives, I do it every day, everyone can hide behind a screen. Nothing is more powerful and personal than giving someone your time and showing them that it is not just a 30 second text message, but it is important enough to see them.
Number 4 – Not Talking
Having the ability to sit with someone in silence, without seeming disinterested and bored can ultimately be more affective in building a solid trustful connection than speaking constantly and getting no response. People with depression sometimes are unable to collate their thoughts into words, they sometimes feel embarrassed or they do not believe you will understand. Simply proving they are not alone can have a positive effect on future communications it lets them know that you are there for them whether they are ready to talk or not.
Number 5 – Confidentiality
This could have really gone at the number 1 spot. When someone is discussing their feelings, deepest darkest worries, secrets or revelations – nothing can be more important than them feeling assured that their details are never shared with any other person. If you have been successful enough in breaking down barriers and obtaining trust, the one thing that can retract that and therefore someone can revert or even become more depressed is if that trust agreement is broken.
However, this point comes with complications. The only reason trust should ever be broken is if you feel as though they are at harm to themselves or to others. If a professional is not already involved, now is the time to do so. Never take any form of suicidal ideation lightly. Trust your gut.