Alternate Title: When faced with the seriousness and complexity of saving a life, obviously the best approach is to view it as a video game
Warning: Mental health should be taken seriously. While I’ve created this neat analogy to offer some suggestions, do keep in mind that I’m not a professional. Also, a blog post is not a replacement for proper treatment and help.
People are complicated. And even when someone is acting logically, it is often guided by their personal belief system, desires, strengths, and weaknesses. But, when tough times and/or poor mental health are also at play, things can get really messy and difficult to unravel.
That’s why sometimes a helpful approach is to come up with an effective analogy. So, if you want to be there for someone, then I suggest pretending that the situation is a video game (without a respawn function, so be careful).
When you think of someone’s life being saved, chances are you probably imagine some physical heroic act. Like a lifeguard saving someone from drowning.
Why is that?
It might seem like ages ago since you listened to 1-800-273-8255 (also the American suicide hotline if you need it), Agnes, How to Save a Life, Last Resort, or even Everybody Hurts, but the concepts behind those songs are still around.
And sure, maybe you’re not a firefighter, hostage negotiator, an ER doctor, or in another life and rescue profession. And so escorting someone to safety or saving them from the jaws of death, probably doesn’t seem applicable in your life.
Yet, you’re probably wrong. Because you’ve probably been around when someone needed a friend.
And as simple and ordinary as that may sound, it’s actually a complex situation that can have severe consequences. Sometimes seemingly ordinary things are monumental. And if you’ve ever gone through tough times or just had a really bad day, then you might personally know that our minds can go to really dark places. But, unlike a bleeding wound or stinging cut, it’s not always easy for us to notice that there’s something worrisome going on in someone’s head.
So, a friend or even just a random stranger can be the person to help us from going under. Because even though it’s true that someone else can’t save you from your inner demons, they can be a guiding light reminding you that there’s good and potential for a better life. And maybe you can even lean on them for support.
We may not know or really understand the other person’s problem.
We may underestimate the effects of the person’s mental health. Or even wonder how helping someone else is going to affect us.
Our concern might be through the roof while the other person might be numb to it.
And it’s certainly possible that we’re not experienced enough or the other person seems too high level (their inner demons and situation too strong) for us to confidently take on.
But, even people whose job it is to save lives can’t know for sure how things will go. You prepare beforehand if you can and then take the situation seriously. It’s about taking the chance and then doing your best.
So, if you do ever try and save someone’s life from a mental health crisis, just know there’s some moves to consider.
Helping someone in need
A big part of improving mental health is spotting that something is wrong and figuring out how to help. But, that can be really hard. Sometimes the person suffering doesn’t even catch it. Or they’re unable to put it in words or choose to dismiss their troubles.
Well, I implied before that physical wounds grab our attention. If you fall out of a tree and break your arm then chances are you’ll notice something is wrong and needs fixing. But, in many societies, it’s easier to push away mental health troubles.
But if you’re better than that, here’s some options:
Listen is the move often recommended, regardless if you’re concerned for someone’s mental health or just trying to be a decent person. It can be really helpful to have someone listening to your concerns and allowing you to get things off your chest in a safe environment. Also, sometimes just expressing to another person their worries can help the person-in-need have a better idea of their situation. Or just help remind them that they’re not alone.
In cases where someone just feels overwhelmed and could use some practical suggestions, advice can go a long way. And I know that advising someone can be a horrible suggestion, especially if the person’s situation isn’t exactly curable (and can only potentially be improved). For example, telling someone to just “stop being depressed” is horrible advice and similar to saying “stop being dead,” to the deceased at a funeral.
[I know, that’s “harsh.” And I hope the comparison will stop you from ever telling someone that.]
But at the end of the day, good advice is like a lifeline in a sea of misery. If you can give someone an idea or tip that they understand and can execute, then it can go a really long way. Because it actually confronts the issue and lets the person change course for a better situation.
On the other hand, sometimes what’s best is to just wait things out. And it’s oftentimes like this that a person does well to be distracted. And I know, “ignoring your problems” is frequently designated as a bad decision. But, the thing is that not everything is going to heal or fix just because you confront and work on it. So, sometimes what works is to allow your mind to try and improve in the background.
Our subconscious is capable of rethinking issues and finding new perspectives. And that can give us the insight to better communicate our troubles to someone else or learn new healthier ways to cope when our mental health is being subpar. But, sometimes reaching such a point can be difficult if you never stop focusing on that stuff. That’s why someone else distracting you for a little while can be helpful. And briefly “running from your problems” can be the solution one needs to actually solve or improve their long-term mental health.
Lastly, if you’re looking to help someone in need, then there’s a special team-up. And sure, you might consider you’re already doing that with the other moves, but this one goes an extra step and has the potential to be more beneficial. Some results could be:
- Exercising together once a week
- Learning a new activity together
- Doing something you rather not do
- Engaging in something you think is risky
- Being someone’s main emotional support
Teaming up is like an unspoken vow (although, you may actually declare it). And you shouldn’t sign-up for it without accepting the possibility of facing some unhappy moments. It can be messy and a hassle. And it doesn’t always involve doing the fun/easy thing to be effective.
Again, addressing mental health (in some ways) is often more complicated than physical health. Most people are consciously aware when they’re physically injured and they accept reality as it is. However, it’s common enough for someone with poor mental health to adamantly deny it or not realize that they have a serious issue.
And it’s partially because of the above paragraph why teaming-up can really pay off, but also damage the helper. When you choose to address someone else’s problems, even if it’s just acknowledging it, it can end in you needing support too. Because just like helping others can bring us up, it can also bring us down. And no one is perfect at managing the balance.
I could totally end things with the previous paragraph. But, I think it’s better and would do more justice to the mental health topic if I further brought down the feeling of “I can be the hero” vibe that I may have initially created.
The rest of this post might seem obvious, if not negative. But, I think honesty is the best policy and people should have some idea of what they’re getting into.
If you choose to help someone, it doesn’t mean:
- They’ll appreciate it.
- It’ll go smoothly.
- They owe you something.
- You’ll make things better.
- Improvement will happen quickly.
- The other person will be happy.
- You’ll be happy.
To be frank, whether your mental health is outstanding or not and whether you’re living with a mental illness(es) or not, you’re still human. This means there’s no guarantee that the person you want to or try to help wants it. Or will appreciate it. Or won’t be a jerk.
Mental health is just another factor of being human. It’s an important one, but just one of many. And you shouldn’t forget that. Otherwise, it can be easy to start exceedingly boxing people into certain expectations and assumptions because you “know what’s right” or have a skewed vision of what “should” happen. And that’s rarely helpful.
Remember, communication is vital to helping anyone facing mental health troubles. So, don’t forget to acknowledge your own needs and circumstances as well as the other person’s. Otherwise, you’re bound to do more harm than good.