Hearing about suicides can be very upsetting and disturbing, especially when it comes from someone we know like a friend. One may not be aware of how they could help out in overcoming trauma- but ignoring it definitely isn’t a choice, one must take some relevant action.
Trigger Warning: The article talks about Self Harm.
Listen to them: You may not be sure of what should you say or do when someone speaks about trauma. It could help even if you:
- Give them time. Let them talk at their own pace & comfort. Don’t pressurize or rush them.
- Focus on Listening. Respect whatever they are choosing to share, rather than probing or asking a lot of questions.
- Accept their feelings. Allow them to feel, be upset about whatever may have happened.
- Don’t criticize their actions or blame their actions. You may think there could have been several alternatives, but you should understand they survived however they could at that time.
- Don’t dismiss their experiences. Don’t tell them “ not to worry about things” or that “ it could have been worse” this is not helpful to hear. People cannot choose or select what is traumatic for them.
Give advice if and only if you are asked to. It depends from person to person, whether they want you to simply hear or do they want your advice.
Sometimes people talking to you about trauma might be casual or unemotional or they may laugh or smile. It may seem strange or absurd but it is actually very common, they are dissociating from their emotions. It may also be helpful to learn their triggers anything that may cause them flash backs or difficult feelings. Understanding them may help you to avoid such topic or situation.
Talking About Trauma: Try not to judge
It is easy to say move on but it is not actually easy to do so. It is important to not blame them.
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Always look for warning signs: Talking about suicide:
- I am going to kill myself
- I wish I were dead
- Getting weapons to kill themselves
- Wanting to be left alone- Withdrawing social contact
- Extreme mood swings
- Being preoccupied with death, violence or dying
- Feeling of Hopelessness, Helplessness, Worthlessness
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Giving away their personal belonging or getting their affairs in order
- Personality changes, eg. Being severely anxious or agitated.
- Encourage them to seek treatment or call a suicide prevention Helpline
- Encourage them to communicate with you
- Be respectful of their boundaries
- Don’t be patronizing
- Offer re-assuring words like things can be better.
Remove any kind of potentially dangerous objects from their reach.
Don’t forget to take care of your own mental health too. Remember, Helping others is important but so is also looking after ourselves and our own emotions. Along with supporting someone else, we should also manage our stress and maintain our well-being. You can talk to your general practitioner, Mental Health professional or someone you trust about your emotions and feelings.
Dr Sahir Jamati, a consultant psychologist and psychotherapist from Mumbai, Masina Hospital. The views expressed are the author’s own.