As I recall back when I tried to support my classmate through a difficult patch in his life, I remember vividly the uncertainties and fear that accompanied it.
“Am I being too kaypoh? What if there’s nothing wrong and I make a fool of myself?”
These were some of the thoughts that typically arise from the many uncertainties when it comes to expressing our concern for someone who seem to be going through a difficult time. While there may be several warning signs to refer to, sometimes they are subtle and easily overlooked.
In a community survey, SOS observed that a majority of respondents who have had suicidal thoughts before indicated that both thinking that nothing would have helped and feeling embarrassed to get help are main barriers to asking for help. On the other hand for concerned parties, most mentioned that the fear of aggravating the situation and being at a loss of words or action was what kept them from expressing their concern.
As far as the above is concerned, hesitation from seeking help and the hesitation to help those in distress is worrying. Even for those keen to support friends who are struggling, they are often met with feelings of uncertainty. Nonetheless, social support is very important, especially when one is in crisis. Instead of letting hesitation stop us from supporting others, it is most important for us to trust our gut feeling when we feel something is amiss. It is pretty accurate and most often than not, checking in will do no harm.
How to check in on someone?
Express your concern in a non-judgemental, caring way
If you noticed a worrying sign and suspect someone may be struggling, it might be useful to mention that you noticed the sign(s) in a non-judgemental way by describing it in a matter-of-fact manner, and ask them how they are doing (i.e. I noticed that you mentioned that life is meaningless or I noticed that you have not been eating well. I’m concerned about you and want to know how you’re doing?”)
However at times, the person we are checking in with might not be receptive to the support you are offering. They may go quiet, or not know what to say, or even dismiss you. This may happen especially when they are not ready or not feeling well.
In this case, remember not to take the rejection personally. They may be struggling to cope and may be feeling angry, upset or ambivalent.
If you noticed warning signs your social media feed, you may find this guideline useful.
Be persistent, not insistent
It is important to remember that it is best not to pressure them to open up to you immediately. We should also not expect a positive response and to take rejections personally. When you reach out, you are actually sending the message that they are not a burden, and that you are willing to be there for them. They may appreciate your help later, when they feel better.
If you are worried about someone, it is important to be persistent. Do periodically check in on them to let them know that you are there for them when they feel ready to talk.
You do not need to find an answer or to resolve the issue immediately. Providing them a non-judgemental listening ear and a safe space to share about their problems will let them know you care.
In order to find out if someone is at imminent risk of self-harm, ask questions in a direct way, such as:
Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
Are you thinking about suicide?
Research shows that asking about thoughts or feelings of suicide will not be suggestive to someone into doing something that inflicts harm to the self. Instead, this conversation offers an opportunity for them to talk about feelings and may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal ideation. At the same time, it is an opportunity for you to let them know that they are not a burden.
If someone expresses directly or indirectly about their thoughts of suicide, always take them seriously. Offer support and encourage them to talk, if you feel comfortable engaging. If not, encourage them to seek professional help by offering resources.
KNOW SOMEONE WHO MAY BE FACING A CRISIS OR GOING THROUGH A TOUGH TIME? LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SOMEONE IN CRISIS, OR FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR SERVICES HERE.
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