Refill your compassion
Helping a friend with mental health issues can drain you; remember to take time for yourself
By Abby Webb and Jalesa Cooley, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Take some time to learn about anxiety and depression
Sure, we all shout out “I’m depressed” from time to time but do you really know what depression is? There is a clear difference between being stressed about an upcoming event and actually dealing with anxiety and depression. Student Health Services can provide you with information about and warning signs of depression and anxiety.
- Talk to your friend
Dealing with mental health issues is not an easy task and your friend will need your support. Be there for him but remember not to be overbearing as he may not want to talk in depth about his issues. Always remember to be open, calm, understanding and supportive. Never accuse him or dismiss any of his feelings and emotions. If you need more help planning your talk, visit the Seize the Awkward website.
- On-campus resources
Our university offers a variety of resources for students depending on where they are in their healing process. If you find that you want to seek help for your friend, but are afraid of how he may react, you can submit a BIT (Behavioral Intervention Team) Report and a trained team of professionals will step in. You may also consider requesting a Community Consultation and Intervention consultation. Staff can provide you with guidance on how to interact with your friend or schedule an intervention for the both of you.
If you want to further your efforts, consider signing up for Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training. This free course will teach you the warning signs of a suicidal person, early signs of depression and train you with various ways to respond.
If your friend is comfortable, it may be beneficial for the two of you to seek support together. Continue to be the friend you've always been: hang out, get lunch together and continue to send funny meme’s back and forth. They’ll need you to be there for them.
Now, take care of yourself. If you burn out or develop vicarious trauma, you might begin to resent your friend for the negative changes in your life and you'll have less compassion for him and his problems. Vicarious trauma happens when you begin to notice that you are having the same anxious and depressed thoughts and feelings as your friend. Here are a few ways to avoid this from happening.
- Speak up for yourself
If you let your emotions get pent up, your friend might sense negativity and feel worse about his anxiety and depression. You need to tell him when you are feeling overwhelmed or distracted. Carefully express your feelings; remember to remain calm and don't place blame.
- Set boundaries
You are not your friend's therapist. It is easy to want to take on his problems and pain, however, you must set clear limits on what you can and cannot do. For example, let him know that he is welcome to call or text, but it might take you awhile to get back to him. Give him a time period for how long it will take you to get back to him.
- Stay on track with your own life
Your life may be altered in some ways beyond your control, but keep going to class, studying and having fun. Go bowling, go to a baseball game, binge-watch Harry Potter — keep living your life.
- Seek support for yourself
Our campus has several options to getting help for yourself: Call the counseling center to make an appointment with a counselor; the student health fee includes 10 sessions per student each year. Stress comes in many forms; if you start to feel overwhelmed, schedule a stress management consultation.
- Take time to rest and recover
If you keep pouring your compassion into your friend, eventually your reserve will run out. Remember to refill your compassion by resting. Self-care is key to being a good friend. @MyHlthyCarolina on Twitter recommends several techniques to help you relax and let go of stress. Watching your favorite movie, enjoying a tech-free meal, reconnecting with other friends and discovering a new place are just a few ideas. Treat yourself.
On March 25, UofSC will host the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of Darkness campus walk. Beginning at Russell House Theater at 1 p.m., the walk will focus on raising awareness of mental health issues and the local and national programs available to those in need. Register online to participate and educate yourself.
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