How to reach out, and how to support someone who does
‘Reaching out is the hardest part.’ We’ve all heard it, and perhaps you’ve even used it at some point when speaking to a friend or loved one who is struggling. Maybe it has been said to you? It is such a well known, well intentioned sentiment, but why is asking for help hard?
When we reach out we choose to show someone a very vulnerable part of ourselves and that can be scary. Often, the very act of reaching out can hurt, as it gives voice to our pain. We can feel out of control. It is a natural reaction to try to keep that vulnerable part of ourselves protected. The unfortunate truth is when this pain is left unvoiced it does not go away and can become bigger. Perhaps in the past you have tried reaching out and been rejected or unheard, so you have chosen not to do so again to protect yourself.
Maybe you are like me, I do not naturally ask for help. I tend to isolate myself in order to process what’s going on, this is termed as retreating. Retreating is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact most of the time it allows well needed time to put thoughts in order, decide how you feel and what help you might need. Retreating can also be the act of self-care you need in order to improve your mood, think over an issue or to gain the psychological space you need. Reaching out is not the opposite of retreating but can be more of a challenge for those who do choose to process their feelings this way.
If you are reading this and thinking about reaching out but don’t know how, I understand. I’ve been there myself a number of times. Here are some of the ways in which you can do so.
Make an appointment with a GP
They may not have a solution but they will be able to offer advice and options
Call a helpline
There are a number of amazing charity services out there who can offer you someone to talk to who has training and knowledge of what you might be struggling with.
Speak to a friend or family member
Often speaking to someone you trust is the tonic you need.
The act of writing will allow your brain to sort through and order thoughts which will help to bring you clarity on what you are going through.
Read mental health blogs
You’ll find my back catalogue here. There are a number of sites and writers out there who may inspire deeper understanding for you or give you some practical steps forward.
What if someone reaches out to you?
It can be a nerve-racking experience to have someone reach out to you. Often we don’t know what to do or have the desire to ‘fix’ the issue quickly. When it comes to emotions and feelings there tends not to be a quick fix.
Talk to them
If you know someone is struggling check in with them regularly. Ask them about their day, often distraction is helpful.
Arrange to see them.
It’s hard for us to do that right now in person but there are a number of platforms to chat via video link.
It sounds easy but often we are thinking of the next thing we are going to say when chatting. Really listen to how they are feeling.
Encourage them to seek help
Use some of the above suggestions!
Try not to get frustrated
We can sometimes find it frustrating when people don’t heed our advice or continue to be upset or depressed after we’ve tried to help. It can be hard for someone who is struggling to feel better. It’s not personal.
If you are thinking of reaching out I hope you can use this article as inspiration and support. Remember whatever you are going through you are not alone.