How To Talk To A Parent, Sibling, Or Friend You Think Might Be Lonely

Author Article

Though loneliness has been a human issue forever, modern loneliness is endemic among both old and young in societies worldwide. The issue is so pervasive that the UK government launched a landmark scheme to tackle loneliness nationally in 2018. But if you think somebody you know might be lonely, knowing how to talk to themabout it can be tough. Being lonely is still seen as a taboo thing, and we often lack the right vocabulary to talk about it.

third of people in the UK expressed loneliness in a survey in 2018, and in 2019, a survey in the U.S. revealed 47 percent of respondents experienced feelings of loneliness. It’s not confined to any age, either; millennials are lonelier than previous generations, according to a study in 2018. Studies show that loneliness may partially be caused by the isolation of relationships conducted via social media and the risk of burnout at work. Many of us are also experiencing the loneliness of cities; as humans live in ever-more crowded metropolises in the 21st century, we also become increasingly separate from others. “You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour [sic] to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people,” writes critic and artist Olivia Laing in The Lonely City.

If you notice somebody close to you appears to be feeling isolated, here’s how to have a conversation about it without making them angry, defensive, or feel more isolated.

1. Take It Slow

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A conversation about somebody else’s loneliness, even if it’s somebody you’re really close to, can feel awkward and raise issues. “Be patient,” Age UK, an organization focused on the elderly (who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness), advises. “When people are lonely, particularly if it’s associated with poor mental health or physical health, they may get irritable or feel misunderstood by others. You may need to offer gentle assurance.” This is not a condemnation or an intervention; it’s an expression of concern, and it may take a few conversations before they’re willing to talk about how they’re feeling.

2. Use A Meal As An Opportunity To Talk

Using meals as a gateway to start this discussion is particularly recommended around major holidays, where lonely people can feel isolated and opportunities for food and shared meals are common. “Why not demonstrate that you’re thinking about someone by making them a delicious meal?” wrote Sabrina Barr for The Independent in 2018. This will not only build closeness into your relationship, it’ll also offer an opportunity to talk about their loneliness and what they need as you prepare food or share it together.

3. Speak From A Place Of Empathy

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People who are lonely don’t just need to “buck up” or “get themselves out there.” Talking down to lonely people, particularly if they have challenges that mean they can’t socialize very much — an illness, a caretaker role, shyness or mobility issues — isn’t going to help. “The use of an infantilising [sic] voice is more often than not experienced as disrespectful and humiliating, and can bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says the UK’s Campaign To End Loneliness.

4. Include Them in Bigger Events

Invite your parent, sibling, or friend to come to a big social occasion that will prompt them to feel a little less isolated, and then see if you can have some one-on-one time; in the light of their recent social interactions at your party or get-together, they may feel more relaxed about talking about their loneliness in general. It’s a double whammy; it helps lonely people feel more connected to others, and also offers a venue to chat where they might feel a bit more cheerful.

5. Come From A No-Judgement Point Of View

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Just as you wouldn’t offer judgment on a sick friend, you can help your loved one talk about loneliness without bringing up individual choices. “A warm, non-judgemental [sic] acceptance of the other person as whatever they are in that given moment during your helping relationship with them” is necessary when you’re dealing with their loneliness, the Campaign To End Loneliness says. “[Understand] that confronting painful feelings and changing their behaviour [sic] in some way can be a big step and a daunting challenge.” Focus on their feelings and how they’re choosing to express them, not your judgement of their situation.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Talk About The Real Stuff

A survey of lonely American adults in 2018, TIME magazine reported, focused particularly on “meaningful relationships.” People who were lonely, the survey noted, had something in common: they said they had fewer people with whom they could “discuss matters of personal importance.” If you want to have a conversation with a lonely friend or family member, it may help to make time to hear about their life in general, and build meaning into your relationship.

Focus on being an empathetic listener. What are their day-to-day worries? What’s personally important to them? Creating or strengthening a meaningful relationship means you’ll have a better basis to talk about their loneliness, and they’ll be more likely to feel comfortable talking about it.

7. Let Them Guide The Conversation

Ashley Batz/Bustle

You’re ready to have a big conversation about loneliness — but let your loved one take charge. “Facilitate a conversation about loneliness, using the skills and qualities of empathy, openness, warmth and respect, and help people to understand their own circumstances and plan their own solutions,” recommends the Campaign To End Loneliness. You might have an idea or a thousand about things they could do to improve their loneliness — join a club! Learn a new skill! — but, the Campaign says, it’s better to let them take agency over the conversation (and what results from it).

It’s also valuable not to make assumptions about what they want; young moms might not want to do lots of stuff to do with motherhood or children, for instance. “We try and remove limits and expectations about roles and interests,” says the Campaign.

Loneliness can be a hard thing to battle — but a friend or family member who really wants to help is a valuable asset. Take on the job diplomatically, and you might be able to make a real difference for a lonely person.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.

How to Be There for Someone Who Survived a Horrible Trauma

Author Article
A recent series of tragic deaths has underscored how traumatic events can claim lives years after the fact. Three people affected by mass shootings—the father of a girl killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012 and two students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018—have died of apparent suicides.
In the wake of these incomprehensible losses, it’s clearer than ever that trauma can lead to years-long suffering. If somebody you love has survived a traumatic event, be it public (like a natural disaster or terrorist attack) or private (such as a sexual assault), you may not be sure how best to be there for them on this journey. While survivors can have very different responses to trauma, interpersonal support is one of the core pieces of recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Here, several trauma counselors and one trauma survivor explain how to help a friend or family member who has been through something horrible. Exactly what they need from you will depend on your relationship and evolve throughout their recovery, but the suggestions below are a good place to start.

1. Validate their trauma.
“Acknowledge that what has happened to them is terrible,” Daniel A. Nelson, M.D., advisory board member of the USC National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) and medical director of the Child Psychiatry Unit at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, tells SELF.
You can do this by saying something like, “This is a truly horrible thing that has happened. I can see you’re in an incredible amount of pain.”

It might feel like you’re saying something obvious, but this affirmation can be reassuring. “It’s about articulating that you see they are in pain and that you are OK with holding that pain,” Katherine Marshall Woods, Psy.D., a Washington, D.C.-based psychotherapist in private practice and adjunct professor of clinical psychology at George Washington University, tells SELF.
This was helpful for Manya C., 53, who was sitting in the bleachers across the street from where the first of two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon in 2013. She appreciated when people confirmed that it really was a devastating event. “Just letting me know that they [understood] that … was validating,” Manya, who advocates for and speaks about those who are psychologically impacted by trauma, tells SELF.
2. Listen.
You might feel a natural urge to fill the silence when you want to help but don’t know what to say, says Dr. Nelson, who has counseled survivors of traumatic events including the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, the September 11 terror attacks, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. This typically comes out of wanting to “fix” the situation, Dr. Nelson says.

But you can’t “fix” someone’s trauma, especially not by talking non-stop. It’s better to be present as they work through their feelings. “It’s really hard to mess up if you’re just intent on listening,” Dr. Nelson says.
Manya remembers breaking down sobbing, seemingly out of nowhere, while at dinner with a friend a few weeks after the bombing. Her friend remained calm and stayed with her until she was done crying before asking Manya where her tears were coming from. “She didn’t tell me, ‘Don’t cry,’ or offer me advice. She just listened and was present,” Manya recalls.

3. Admit that you don’t understand.
Survivors are often reluctant to open up because they’re afraid a loved one will not have the emotional capacity to understand, says Marshall Woods, who has counseled active military personnel and their families in the Middle East and natural disaster survivors through the American Red Cross. Unless you’ve been through a very similar trauma, you don’t get it. And that’s fine. What matters most is that you’ll be there anyway.
Say something like, “I cannot begin to imagine what you’re going through right now, but I am here for you whenever you are having a hard time.” This kind of statement acknowledges the reality—that you don’t understand—while reinforcing your willingness to be there. “It’s a piece of security that can really help them feel safe,” Marshall Woods says.

Manya remembers how helpful it was when a friend expressed this. “Hearing her honestly say, ‘I don’t know what to do to help you, but I’m here’ was huge for me,” Manya says. “I didn’t know what I needed either. But I knew she was there to listen, and that started a really great conversation.”

4. Accept if they don’t want to talk.
It’s not unusual for survivors to prefer not to talk about their feelings, even with some of the people closest to them. Discussing trauma with someone who doesn’t understand can be draining. “There are things I don’t have to say to a survivor, for example, because they get it—things I would have to explain to a friend,” Manya explains.

While it’s OK (and encouraged) to ask if your loved one feels like speaking, respect that they may not want to, Dr. Nelson says. Part of being a good support system is being there for them regardless of how much they will or won’t share.
If your loved one is still navigating how much they’re comfortable sharing, Marshall Woods recommends figuring out a verbal or non-verbal cue they can give you to back off when they need space, no questions asked.

5. Keep checking in.
Survivors often get a lot of support immediately after the traumatic event, but attention from the media, the public, and loved ones tends to dwindle soon after. “It feels like other people have gone on living their lives normally as if the trauma has not even happened, when it’s still very much alive for them,” Marshall Woods explains.

Let the person you love know that you’re still continuing to think of them by checking in accordingly. “Knowing that someone has their eyes on them can be a real source of support and security,” Marshall Woods says. She also suggests offering to sit in silence with the person if they don’t feel like talking but don’t want to be alone.
Manya’s family members called her every day for longer than she expected after the attack. The conversations weren’t long, but the constant reminder of their presence and concern was comforting. “It meant a lot to me just to get those calls,” she says.

6. Offer to help limit news coverage.
If your loved one has been through a highly publicized trauma, such as a mass shooting, the early deluge of media coverage may continually retraumatize them. If you think they’re having this problem, you can ask if they want help limiting their media exposure. You can do this by changing their news alerts and muting certain hashtags or words on Twitter, for instance. This helps some people feel safer throughout the recovery process, Marshall Woods says.
But it’s possible your friend may want to stay up with the news coverage because it helps them feel less alone. “They [may be] grateful that people are taking notice of the pain they’re experiencing and that people are grieving with them,” Marshall Woods explains. So, even if your friend is visibly upset by news stories about what happened, keep in mind that this may be a part of their healing process.

7. Avoid clichés.
Looking for a silver lining can be great in many situations. The aftermath of a trauma usually isn’t one of them. “When someone is feeling this pain, you need to meet them there,” Marshall Woods says. “You want them to feel better now, but that is not the reality of where they are.”

Urging your friend to be optimistic or not “dwell” on the tragedy communicates that you’re not accepting how they’re feeling. What you mean as an expression of hope (“Things will get better!”) can come off as a dismissal of their suffering and make them feel misunderstood. “Usually when the individual hears something like that, they think ‘You’re trying to fix me, and you don’t know the first thing about what’s wrong,’” Dr. Nelson explains.

8. Help them find mental health support.
If you’re concerned for your loved one’s well-being—like if they are struggling to eat, get out of bed, go to work, or otherwise function months after the event—you can offer to help connect them with some professional resources like a therapist or support group, Dr. Nelson says. (Even if they are currently receiving mental health treatment, if it doesn’t seem effective, you may be able to help them find a better option.)
This is also a good idea if you begin to feel overwhelmed with the level of support they need from you. “Sometimes it’s really hard to hear these stories,” Dr. Nelson says, “and it’s important to have the proper tools to metabolize it.” Friends and family of survivors can even experience secondary trauma, according to SAMHSA. It’s OK to be mindful of your limits and communicate those needs in a compassionate way.
In that situation, Dr. Nelson suggests saying something like, “What you’re telling me sounds like it really deserves the appropriate level of support, and it may be more than I know what to do with. I would love to know you’re with somebody who really knows what they’re doing. Can we hit pause and work on finding you that help?”

9. Be patient.
The aftermath of trauma is complex, evolving, and inscrutable at times—not just to outsiders, but also to the people who are in it. “Trauma generally is an experience of something that is so chaotic that our brains really struggle to … make meaning out of what has happened,” Marshall Woods explains.

Be prepared for emotions to be intense and fluctuating, Dr. Nelson says. Also keep in mind that your loved one may struggle to understand why they are feeling the way they are, or to even know what it is they’re feeling. This was Manya’s experience in the first few months after the bombing, before she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. “At the time, ‘I was thinking I should be better, I shouldn’t feel like this,’” she says.
You can’t speed up the recovery process for your loved one, but you can remain a steady, patient, and adaptable source of love throughout. “It can be a rollercoaster,” says Manya. “But people should understand it’s normal to feel this way and that they can heal.”

How do you help a loved one through depression? How do you offer support when you know words only mend so much? I know the weight that depression can put on a person’s mind, heart, and body; that feeling of utter emptiness, numbness, and solitude, despite desperation for some form of connection to pull you […]

via How Do You Help A Loved One Through Depression? — The Healthy Mindset Project

The Perfect Ten Sentences of Seduction What is really meant when we say these words. 1. I love you and I always have My need to seduce you is considerable and therefore I will use language which will appeal to you and be so outlandish that it will blow you away. I do not…

via Ten Seductive Sentences Used By The Narcissist — Knowing the Narcissist

Great Blogs For People With Mental Illness

Hi guys, so I wanted to compile a little collection of blogs out there that are about and/or for people with mental illness.

You can never have too many resources at your disposal.

12 Great Blogs for People With Depression

The Best Mental Health Bloggers You Need to Follow

8 Inspiring Blogs to Read Whenever You Feel Alone

Hope your Mondays were AMAAZING!

Suicide Attempt Survivors Speak: On Trying Again.

New Posts To Come! Preview For Tomorrow’s Post.

Tomorrow’s Snowboarding & Suicide Series will focus on what sort of internal conflicts or just what it is like for different people and their different failed suicide attempts. In this instance, it happens to be mine. I was sort of blasé about then situation (hence the featured image). I do not want my own experiences, perceptions, and general emotional opinion on the situation to overshadow those of other.

There is no black & white when it comes to depression & suicide. These things can appear different to everyone. Before publishing my own take on what it is like to have survived a suicide attempt, I wanted to share some resources that provide different points of view around the situation & some extra resources.

No one’s experience is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to any aspect of mental illness. This is no exception.

41 Secrets Of Suicide Attempt Survivors

7 Things I Learned After My Failed Suicide Attempt

After A Suicide Attempt, The Risk Of Another Try
*This one is pretty important, about 2 weeks after the first attempt. I was extremely close to trying again. Dangerously close. Don’t make the mistake I almost did.

 

 

“Break The Silence For Suicide Attempt Survivors” A TedTalk

“Research shows that 19 out of 20 people who attempt suicide will fail. But the people who fail are 37 times more likely to succeed the second time. This truly is an at-risk population with very few resources to support them. And what happens when people try to assemble themselves back into life, because of our taboos around suicide, we’re not sure what to say, and so quite often we say nothing. This causes further isolation”

Quote from https://www.ted.com/talks/jd_schramm?referrer=playlist-the_struggle_of_mental_health&utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare
I love this quote.

There is so much truth in this quote. After I survived, I almost did the exact same thing 5 days later. I was still scared to tell most of my support system & was not the least bit grateful or happy to still be alive. Half of the time I did not know how people would react, & half of the time I worried I would be committed to a Psychiatric Ward for Observation. There is massive stigma even around mentioning suicide, let alone discussing a failed attempt. It is hard to decide to live. You can do it, though!