Especially after a tumultuous past two years, it's more important than ever to check in on our friends, family and loved ones. While asking if someone is okay is a great start, knowing what to say if they say 'No' can be tricky.
Be Present And Listen Actively
"Actively listening is important", says Nancy. "This helps the other person feel heard. Listen to understand rather than to respond. Most people are not looking for solutions to their problems but rather a listening ear that is supportive, understanding and compassionate."
So what questions can you ask to help someone open up if you see them struggling? Nancy recommends these non-confronting questions:
"You don't seem like your usual self; what's going on for you?"
"Just checking in, how have you been feeling lately? I know it's been hard for so many of us."
Validate Their Feelings
"Start by helping to validate what they are feeling", explains Nancy. "The feeling of being understood and validated can allow someone to open up about what is going on for them."
She recommends trying some of these responses when they do open up about how they feel:
"It makes sense that you're feeling that way about..."
"What you are feeling is definitely warranted given the circumstances".
Check In On How They Really Are
While it's important to be inquisitive about their situation, Nancy reminds us that we need to adhere to other people's boundaries. Try asking open-ended questions such as:
"Do you feel as though this situation is getting worse for you? If so, why?"
"Are you having worrying thoughts?"
"Although it may feel uncomfortable, it's important that you check to see if they are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide," says Nancy. "Most people feel apprehensive about starting these conversations as they may not have the tools to "fix" what is happening. Just remember, most of the time people are looking for a place that they feel safe enough to discuss their feelings and situation...not necessarily for you to change the situation for them."
Ask How You Can Help
Different people require different support and so it is important to ask the right questions, explains Nancy. Try asking things like:
"What would make life easier for you right now?"
"Is there something I can help you with?"
Also make sure you continue to follow up with them after having the initial conversation, as mental health states can shift drastically in a short amount of time.
"Thank you for sharing this with me, I will be sure to check in with you in a week from now".
"Do you mind if I text you at the end of each day, to see where you're at?" (in high-risk situations).
Nancy also recommends offering resources outside of yourself in case someone needs additional support from a professional. It's fantastic to help yourself but sometimes we need help beyond what a friend can give, and that's ok. Here are some resources you can share:
Lifeline — 13 11 14
Beyondblue — 1300 224 636
Suicide Call-back Service — 1300 659 467
Let them know that they can speak to their GP about obtaining a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) and referral to see a psychologist. If they are worried about going to their GP, you can suggest online services such as Lysn where people can access online psychology counselling by a qualified psychologist.