How to help a neighbour

We’ve spoken a lot about the rise of lockdown loneliness at YourLifeChoices. We’ve discussed how this period may be particularly tough on people living alone or struggling with their mental health. But what if it’s not yourself, but a friend or neighbour you suspect may be struggling the most?

“All of us now feel a sense of trepidation about the future,” said psychologist and former Lifeline manager Lyn Bender. She expressed concern for the mental health of many Australians during the pandemic and revealed a strategy to help check in on the people in your life.

While getting someone to open up about their struggles and admit that they may need help can be difficult, simply being empathetic and able to listen may be enough. Ms Bender said it was important to convey that you care about how they feel.

“We thought the fact that we were ready to listen, that we cared, that we thought they were worth it, they were worthwhile human beings – even though it wasn’t personal, that seemed to work very well.” Ms Bender told The New Daily.

Create a safe space
It’s important to make sure that no-one feels judged. Ms Bender noted that being empathetic and open to listen were essential to creating a safe space. Ask how they’re coping with the crisis, if it’s affecting how they’ve been feeling. “In the end, when you have conversations with people, what you’re looking for is how they’re managing everything … and what’s keeping them going (if anything),” Ms Bender told The New Daily

If the person seems to be struggling, ask them small questions about things in the foreseeable future. Ask what they plan to have for dinner or might watch on TV that evening; it can help to bring them into the present. Ms Bender said. “See if you can bring them into the present with activities they might do and offer them a follow-up call. Then they feel there’s something to latch on to.”

Professional help
If you’re concerned for a friend or neighbour and think they may benefit from speaking to a professional, try to normalise the idea before you suggest it. Convincing someone to seek professional help can be difficult, because they first have to admit that something is wrong. Mention how hard everyone is finding the crisis, normalising the idea that it’s a particularly tough time, so it’s natural to be struggling. You can casually suggest that they phone their GP, even if they don’t feel that they can be helped, because it’s at least ‘worth a shot’.

For more information on how to help someone who you think may be struggling with anxiety or depression, visit Beyond Blue.

If you feel that you need to speak with someone, Lifeline is available around the clock on:
Phone: 13 11 14 (24 hours/7 days)
Text: 0477 13 11 14 (6pm–midnight AEDT, 7 nights)
Chat online: https://www.lifeline.org.au/crisis-chat (7pm–midnight, 7 nights)

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Liv Gardiner

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