Samaritans Awareness Day – The importance of listening

“Every six seconds, somebody contacts us. Ten times a minute, we can help someone turn their life around. That’s a privilege and a huge responsibility.” – Samaritans

24 July 2016 marks Samaritans Awareness Day. Samaritans was set up to offer round the clock help to those in need – suffering from depression and often on the brink of suicide. The Samaritan helpline offers people the chance to talk in confidence for as long as needed, without interruption.

Many people suffer with depression and although it is a serious illness that gets in the way of everyday life, it is treatable. If you know someone who is suffering from depression it is important to understand that they cannot just ‘snap out of it’, it is also important not to take their emotions personally no matter how close you are to the individual – depression makes it challenging to connect with anyone on an emotional level.

Taking care of a friend or family member who is suffering with depression is not easy. You must take care of yourself as well, otherwise you may be at risk of becoming overwhelmed and unstable. Beginning that serious conversation can sometimes be daunting but you don’t need to be an expert in mental health, in fact, sometimes all that person needs is a listening ear.

Don’t try to fix all of their problems – you won’t find success in that method. Often it is more important to that person that you try to understand and sympathise with how they are feeling. When someone feels that they are being understood their perspective on their situation can shift. This can be the first step from feeling isolated to feeling included, from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful. The key to being a good listener is to set aside any agenda that you may have and reflect on what the person is saying. Try not to interrupt and think carefully about the impact of any questions you might ask and how it might make them feel. The best listening skill is to be non-judgmental. When you judge someone it is easy for them to shut down. Non-judgmental listening gives the other person a sense of freedom and acceptance.

Don’t be put off trying to help someone because you don’t know what to tell to them to do. Often you shouldn’t tell them anything and instead let them work through it themselves with you there to support them. Engaging in conversation is always better than not talking at all – even if it is discussing things like your favourite TV show or book or telling a joke – never shy away from a conversation because you are scared of upsetting that person.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep in touch when you are living a busy lifestyle, however, you must remember that it might be even harder to keep in touch if you are suffering from depression. It is important that you make the time to check up on that person – even just a text or email can help show that person that they are not alone.

It is often hard for people to seek professional help and it is not up to you to push them to do it. Try to reassure that person that it is okay to ask for help and let them know about the services available. However you must let them do this in their own time.

Finally the most important question that you can ask is: “What can I do to help?” Those who are suffering with depression often feel isolated and do not want to ask for help themselves. By offering your help you are opening a door for that person and giving them someone that they can feel safe to confide in.

Whatever you or someone you know is going through, you can call the Samaritans free of charge any time, from any phone on: 116 123

If you are interested in employing someone with a mental health need, contact us.