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Reach Into Life

Quit saying you don’t have time. You have time for what you make time for in life. – Bryant McGill

Offering to listen, especially impersonally like on social media, is a common way of trying to affect change and let people know you want them to feel comfortable talking about their mental health. You feel you should do something and are genuinely wanting to help.

“My door is always open, coffee anytime,… I need eight others to post, not share, this message to show you are always there if someone needs to talk.”

“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call/text/message me. I’ll be there for you!”

I have posted various messages like this and have told people these things to their faces. I even meant it. However, this achieves little to help individuals who are struggling with depression, anxiety, mental illness, or grief.

I have had people say, “Reach out if you need to talk.”

“No, I need you to reach out to me.” They never called. When I have reached out to them, I get no answer or brushed aside with things like:

  • You’re just melancholy today.
  • Caleb would not want to see you like this.
  • I have to go. {On the first mention of having a hard day.}

Yes, each of these actually happened. I hear stories from others who have had similar experiences and worse. So when someone says they will listen, many will not feel safe contacting them. Too many of those offering to listen will gossip about details told in confidence. How are we supposed to know if the offer comes from a safe person in which we can confide?

Anxieties will also stop people. Those needing help easily talk themselves out of reaching for help.

  • “Who should I contact?”
  • “Are they going to be where they can talk?”
  • “I dumped a lot on him last month, I don’t really want to load him down again.”

Your stating a willingness to talk with people is great. Placing the action upon the sufferer is the problem. Most people with whom I have talked, and in my experience also, do not trust the person offering, do not remember the offer during their low point, or have anxieties about making contact.

With all these people saying they will listen, many sufferers state they have no one to contact. What is the solution?

Don’t ask people to “Reach Out”. You go to them and Reach In!

Instead of offering to listen, call your friends, family, and others with whom you have a relationship. If you know someone who needs a friend, earn their trust. If their grass is tall, ask them if you can cut it. Offer to do their grocery shopping. Whatever it is you can do to enter their life and help reduce burdens. Along the way, you can find ways of gently helping them open up. Notice I am not giving examples of open-ended questions to ask. Until you are very close and already doing other things for a while, do not ask “What can I do for you.”

Once you are trusted, contact your person. However your relationship communicates, you reach to them. Again, try not to lean on open questions.

“Hey! Do you want me to bring coffee in the morning so we can chat?” This is letting your person know you are thinking of them and willing to listen with an action ready. They can then either accept, postpone, or give an alternate.

“No, my house is a wreck. How about 9 a.m. at the coffee shop?”
Now you have a commitment to talk and an action to consider. Your person might accept help to straighten up the house but wait until meeting for coffee to gauge if now is the right time to extend that help to them.

To summarize how to help others:

  • Don’t expect them to contact you.
  • Keep reaching out in different ways. It can take time, be gentle and persistent.
  • Never judge how they feel or compare their experience to something else.

This is not as glamorous as posting on social media how exceptional you are for allowing people to contact you, but you will make a difference!

Reach Into Life
ReachIntoLife.com

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Published inGrief

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