Every time I hear of some tragic event, such as the recent mass shootings, death by domestic violence or suicide, I wonder what happened?
What happened to the person who felt so disconnected, angry, unloved or irrelevant to cause them to harm others or themselves?
The feeling of despair is powerful. It can make one feel and think that their actions don’t matter or that in order to get the attention that they seek, they have to do something drastic.
Many times, the signs of despair, anger, and chronic depression are noticed by friends, family and co-workers, but sometimes you just don’t know what to do to help them. In other cases, the person has hidden their feelings from everyone and kept their angst bottled up inside.
Here are a few tangible ways that you can support them:
1. Talk. Tell friends, family members and co-workers verbally that you care about them. Sometimes people think that others know how they feel about them through their actions, but there’s power in the words being spoken and followed up with action.
2. Support. If you are an employer, offer resources such as an EAP or Employee Assistance Program in which employees can get the counseling or other treatments that they need. If you are a friend or family member and an EAP is not available, seek free or low cost options in your community that can be a resource for that person; these might be available through local nonprofit organizations, churches and other houses of worship.
3. Listen. Just having someone to talk to is comforting. The person needs to feel supported and heard.
4. Connect. Everyone has a basic need to “belong.” We find connection in our family, through community engagement, in churches and faith-based settings, through playing sports and being part of a team, and through relationships with co-workers and friends. So connect and engage with others around you, for yourself and for them. No one is an island and we truly do need each other.
5. Check In. Check in with your strong friends, family and co-workers. Many times, those who seem like they have it all together need support too. They need a moment to let their guards down and know that they have a shoulder to lean on.
6. Get Up & Out. Activity is a great motivator. Staying in the house or in isolation feeds a sense of disconnection and leads to depression. Just getting outside in the sunshine is invigorating. A walk, a run, gardening, going to a barbeque with friends or a social event gives you something to look forward to. So, invite your friends, family members and co-workers out to do something fun or relaxing. Instead of your co-worker eating their lunch alone in their office, invite them out for lunch or go to a park or outdoor break area to eat lunch.
Hold your loved ones close, hug your family members, check on your neighbors and share a smile. It cost you nothing to show compassion, so create a space for others to feel connected and cared for.