When helping someone through a hard time, offering your time to talk would be a huge benefit. Getting past the “I’m fine” response and asking them “but how are you,really?” Allows an opportunity for them to be more open (if they are ready).
If you offer this option, make sure you have the time to do so. If they start talking about their recent struggles and you cut them off because time is up, this could be very difficult for them. Similarly, try allowing them to finish without giving opinions or suggestions unless they ask for them. Sometimes just knowing someone is listening can be very helpful.
If you feel like they are struggling and would benefit from some therapeutic help, be mindful of how the subject is approached. You come from a caring place so the suggestion is not meant to harm them or make them feel like they are overwhelming you. Rather, acknowledge their current struggles and remind them that you care and want to see them feeling better. Encourage them to communicate their struggles to a mental health practitioner, just as you would recommend someone to see a medical Doctor if they were in physical pain. Let them know you’re concerned and want them to feel better. Focusing on the goal of progress instead of the pain can be beneficial for both of you.
When comfortable to do so, reflect on the conversation later while you are alone. Sometimes the weight of others might weigh a little heavy on us. Exercise your own self-care after a hard conversation by doing something you enjoy and something that’s healthy for you. Some examples are art, crafting, exercise, watching a funny video, etc.
Lastly, be cautious about communicating others thoughts and feelings with another person. They talk about their struggles in confidence and are confident that you will keep their private life, private. However, if you believe they are a possible threat to themselves or another, please reach out to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Megan Bowling, M.A., LMFT