How to support someone going through a tough time

Bushfires, a global pandemic, major job losses, a ban on international travel – there was a lot that made 2020 a year to forget, and for many Australians their struggles have continued well into this year.

After such a challenging year for so many people, it’s made it more important to focus on mental wellbeing for 2021 and beyond. So, if someone close to you is going through a tough time, here are some compassionate ways to support them.

How to recognise someone is going through a tough time

An unfortunate fact of last year is that people all over the world suffered from a greater incidence of health problems, job loss, depression and marginalisation. In Australia, a recent study into the impact of COVID-19 on our mental health found that “mental health problems were at least twice as prevalent as in non-pandemic circumstances”.

That means you’re likely to know at least one person who has recently experienced – or is still suffering from – major difficulties in their life. So, what are some of the signs that they might be struggling?

    • Regularly anxious or overly worried
    • Severe and frequent mood swings
    • Procrastination – more than usual
    • Missing work or school
    • Binge drinking
    • Not showering or taking care of themselves
    • Not eating
    • Isolating from other people
    • Sleeping too much
    • No interest in things that used to make them happy
    • Overt feelings of hopelessness or belief that they are unworthy of what they have

Here are three ways you can help someone you care about get through a challenging time.

Be compassionate and an active listener

In many cases someone struggling with personal issues won’t want to talk at all. For a variety of reasons – such as feelings of worthlessness – they may simply shut down when you try to speak to them about what’s wrong. If that’s the case, be understanding that now is simply not the right time, and always be compassionate by telling them you are here for them whenever they need.

If and when they do want to speak, let them do exactly that: speak. Sometimes the best thing for mental struggles is to let it all out. In this situation, your job is to hear what they have to say without judgement. While they are speaking, be an active listener – you can acknowledge their feelings with a non-verbal response like a nod, but don’t interrupt them and certainly don’t give them unsolicited advice. Just talking it out could be exactly what they need to start tackling their struggles head-on.

Encourage new strategies and healthy ways to cope

Sometimes a person just needs someone to listen to their problems and their worries about the future. Just because they are sharing their current difficulties doesn’t mean they are asking for a solution. However, if you are someone they trust and they value your advice, they may welcome you offering a few coping strategies.

Rather than jumping straight into how you can solve all their problems, instead ask them if they would like to hear your thoughts on their situation and how you think they can start to overcome their struggles. If they say yes, then offer healthy coping strategies – and plenty of encouragement!

If they are having relationship problems, for example, ask them whether it would be worth visiting a couples counsellor. Or if they are out of work and worried about money, encourage them to keep searching and perhaps you might even know a person or a business that is currently hiring. While you may not be able to solve all their problems, just having a friend there for support can start them on the road to recovery.

Continue to look out for them

After the conversation is over, it would be easy to get back to your normal life and forget all about your friend’s troubles. But just because life goes on for you, that doesn’t mean they will instantly snap out of their troubled times.

Make sure you check in with them regularly and offer support wherever you can. If you find they have retreated into isolation during these difficult weeks and months, make a deliberate effort to invite them out every once in a while. Something as small as going for a long walk can do wonders for our mental health.

2020 was a tough year for many of us. It was also a chance to reflect on what’s most important in our lives – and how to protect it. Whether that’s ensuring you have the right life insurance cover for your needs, or simply making an effort to reach out to friends who may be doing it tough, let’s make 2021 a better year for those we care about most.

You can get a quick life insurance quote today or call the Real Insurance experts on 1300 377 325.

If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to Lifeline for support or call 13 11 14.