Transitions and change can be challenging for any of us. The recent earthquake, hurricane and flooding, in addition to the end of vacation and back-to-school, or back to the grind of work, can be stressful and emotionally overwhelming. You can help reduce not only someone else's stress and feelings of depression and anxiety, but also your own, with a simple connection -- talking. In the next few weeks and beyond, practice a good and important habit for maintaining positive psychological well-being: Give someone you trust a call and say, "Talk to me."
Talking to someone regularly and telling them about our lives might seem simple and unimportant, but it can produce tremendous and even life-saving benefits. When we make a habit of talking with a friend, family member, colleague or counselor about the important issues in our life, we're more likely to talk with them about those issues that have the potential to be harmful or even life-threatening, including thoughts of suicide.
Getting into this habit now is also well-timed. National Suicide Prevention Week begins the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and extends through the following Saturday, Sept. 4 -10. This important awareness week helps us learn what to do if someone we care about is in crisis, including if that person is you. One of the best tools to preventing suicide is lowering the bar to getting help. When you say, "Talk to me," your offer of care and acceptance could help save a life.
Starting the Trend
Talking -- whether it's on the phone, in person, by email, instant message or video chat -- offers insight into another person's experience and lets them know you care and that you are open to listen. You can often hear or see what isn't spoken simply through tone or body language, and by genuinely listening without judgment you'll gain a deeper understanding of what the person is experiencing and feeling.
By telling a friend, "Talk to me," you immediately communicate that you accept them for who they are, and that you are prepared to listen and take them seriously. For a person experiencing depression, it may not be easy to engage in conversation, but by creating a safe space for expression, you could open a window to their darkness. You can help them to see choices they may not be aware that they have, which can help them move forward in their life.
Respond to someone when they ask, "Can you talk to me?" by picking up the phone or meeting them in person. If they tell you they are considering suicide, take them seriously. They've opened up to you because they trust you, and you can help them by continuing to engage that trust by encouraging them to get help from a counselor, hospital or lifeline.
"Talk to me," is an especially important phrase to share if you are a trained counselor, mediator or listener, including teachers, school counselors, religious leaders and members of law enforcement. It encourages friends and neighbors to know that you are a safe and accepting person to talk with, and that seeking help is a vital tool.
Always remind the people you care about that help is available. The Trevor LifeLine (866-488-7386) is a 24-hour free and confidential resource for young people (ages 24 and younger) who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. There is also the National Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
The Trevor Project has launched an awareness campaign called "Talk to Me" for National Suicide Prevention Week. Through TrevorTalkToMe.org, you can learn more about the value of talk and spread the word to friends and family members that you care and are someone to talk to. There, you can also sign a pledge to continue to practice the good habit of talking.
Follow Jeffrey Fishberger, MD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TrevorProject