Time and time again, we hear about the value of being connected to community and loved ones to help us get through tough moments and celebrate successes. As relationships grow, we observe and learn things about each other that give us the ability to reach out on a different level. When a loved one feels good, it’s a great feeling. However, when a friend or family member seems off, it can complicate relationships and even be a sign of something deeper.
To be supportive, it’s important to know how to reach out to a loved one who may need help. Sirrilla Blackmon, LCSW, LCAC, is the current Deputy Director of Youth Services, Addiction Prevention and Health Equity within the Division of Mental Health and Addiction at Indiana FSSA. With a background in recreational therapy, and years working with children and adults struggling with mental health issues like depression, stress and anxiety, Sirrilla shared her insights on how to begin conversations with a loved one.
When choosing to reach out, she emphasized the importance of perspective, “There is a wide spectrum for depression. Some events can get someone in a space of depression, but there is also a chemical imbalance of depression. There is a spectrum of functionality for each of these. Patience is essential. Moving to action can be a task. If you really know someone, you can tell. You need to trust your gut.” Sirrilla says if you notice your loved one behaving strangely or out of character for them, you may want to check in on them.
Behaviors to Watch:
- Are they more isolated?
- Are they not engaging as they typically do?
- Are they calling off plans/calling off work regularly?
- Have they lost interest in things they used to enjoy?
When you start a conversation, Sirrilla says the most important thing you can do is be willing to listen, then be consistent in your communication. Depending on the individual, they may not be ready to open up. They may not be in a space to accept your help; however, knowing that you are there for them and ready to listen whenever they are ready is important. Being open and honest goes a long way, “People think they have to find the right words. It’s not about the right words. It’s about being present. It’s about listening.”
Phrases to Use While Checking In:
“I miss talking to you.”
“What’s been happening in your life?”
“I’ve not been in your shoes, but I know it can’t be easy to deal with.”
“I am happy to listen to hear you talk about ______.”
“What can I do to help you?”
“I’m here whenever you’re ready.”
Just as you want to help your loved one, Sirrilla highlighted that you also must be sure to take care of yourself. “If you are constantly giving, you may hit a point where you can’t help anymore. Give grace. Give yourself and others grace.”
When Reaching Out Remember:
- Don’t take a response personally.
- Remind the person that you care about them.
- Check in regularly.
- Understand there are good days and bad days for everyone. That’s OK!
- When you connect, it doesn’t always have to be about mental health.
Keep in mind that you should not take the place of professional help. Be supportive as much as you can with your loved one, while maintaining what makes your relationship unique. If your loved one is ready to get professional help but isn’t sure where to start, encourage them to call 2-1-1 to speak with a trained counselor.
To be able to focus on mental health, your basic needs (shelter, food, clothing, health care, etc.) must be met first. Indiana 211 is a free, safe and confidential way to connect to resources from around the state and in your community.
If you need support, call 2-1-1. The resources on Indiana 211 are updated weekly to provide the most accurate services.