What Should You Do If You Think Someone Is Really Struggling?
By Adam Garone on 19 June 2018
Men, in particular, hesitate to reach out and ask for help — I’ve been there… We are conditioned to believe we always have to be in control, stay tough, strong, and confident. When we aren’t feeling that way, it can seem to undermine what many of us hold up as being a “real man.” Instead of asking for help, we put on a mask. We project an image of everything being good — but it’s really not.
We have to look out for each other — especially when someone you care about is going through some shit. Maybe they lost their job, are having financial issues, dealing with tough relationship problems or an illness, or going through a big transition like becoming a Mum or Dad or retirement. You might not know everything going on with someone, and you’re most likely not a therapist — that doesn’t matter, you can still have significant, and potentially life-saving role to play.
Where to start — that’s the question I get a lot. It starts with looking out for changes like not being at social events, withdrawing at work, drinking more, eating patterns, not responding to calls and texts. If you think someone is really struggling, I’ve found the ALEC framework works really well in having that important conversation:
Start simply and ask,“How are you doing?” or, as my therapist asks, “What’s it like to be you today, Adam?”
If you think someone is at risk of suicide, the most important question you should ask is literally, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” That’s a daunting question — but you won’t do any harm by asking it. I’ve asked it many times and had both responses. Actually, asking it might even help save a life.
The next step is to listen without judgement. Don’t try to solve the problem or give advice. Be present and just listen to what they’re going through.
Talking about what’s really going on is a critical step forward. Encourage them to re-engage with the things that make him happy: it can just be simple stuff like exercise, being in nature, spending time with friends.
Encourage them to seek professional help with a doctor or therapist. If someone says they are suicidal then you should stay with them and seek professional help immediately.
Keep up the contact. Texts and chat messages are good, but there’s nothing like old school face time. Make time to see your friend and make sure they know you have their back.
Don’t forget to check in with your “STRONG FRIENDS” — we all need a little help from time to time.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.