Checking in on a mate
Australia is built on a tradition of helping mates.It’s what we do when times are tough.We have a long and proud history of helping our mates through drought, floods, and fires. This year some of our mates will need us to help them through one of the busiest times of the year.The TV version of how wonderful this time of year can be, simply isn’t so for many people.Research suggests that the December to January period can be one of the most difficult periods for some people and unfortunately the rates of suicide increase over this period. The reasons are personal and can vary from grief, loneliness, financial stress and even a lack of mental health support due to services closing or having reduced hours during this period.Now is the time for us all to check in on our mates.
Warning signs your mate may be struggling
You may find that one of your mates has started posting on social media that they are getting excessively and frequently drunk, sharing a lot of anxiety/ depression/ mental health memes, or constantly joking about overspending and not being able to afford it. Your mate may also display signs of withdrawing from you and family members, their appearance may become unkempt or disheveled.You may notice changes in their mood such as sadness or agitation. This could be your sign to catch up and ask some tough questions, such as how they are feeling and even if they are feeling suicidal. It’s okay to reach out to someone we are worried about. Sometimes when we ask the tough questions it opens a gateway for conversation and allows people to express how they are feeling.
Tips to support mates going through a hard time
Check in regularly
This is one of the best things you can do to support a mate who is going through a hard time.Send them a text, call them, sit on the couch, and watch TV, just be present with them.If they aren’t in the mood to talk or do anything and want to be left alone, let them know that that’s okay too.
Don’t try to fix anything
Its human nature when we hear that someone is struggling, we want to make that person feel better by doing something.The best approach is to listen. As hard as it is, make no suggestions.Making suggestions or trying to fix the issue may come across as you be dismissing their struggle or pain.Let your friend talk and express what they are going through.Listening will help you truly understand.During the conversation you can acknowledge that some of the experiences they have had were not ideal. This will allow your mate to feel validated with their feelings and will allow them to further express their feelings.Don’t avoid the sensitive topics, for example if the person is grieving for a loved one, talk about this person by name and share memories.
Sometimes when we recognise people are struggling, we want to shield them from situations that we feel may make the situation worse.For example, we may feel that they don’t want to participate in social events or traditions but in fact this may help them feel normal. Offer to go to events as their plus one, offer to help them decorate their place, assist with shopping for events.Let your mate decide what they need. And most importantly do not judge their decision. If they want to spend the time alone, let them.Do not place any further pressure on them as it will create further stress.
Navigate support service.
We can also help our mates by suggesting that they may need to talk to someone with experience in helping people with similar issues.We can provide them with a list of options of support services.Several support services are still available during the December to January period and it’s important to let your mate know that its okay to call if they need further support.
Remember to take timeout from the busyness and give a mate a call, it may be just the support they need.
It's OK to call..
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Kids Help Line 1800 551 80
Lifeline 13 11 14
Mensline 1300 789 978