Opinion: How to help when loved ones need it most

I recently sat with a friend who was in pain. Not the physical type, but pain on the inside. They were hurting in a way that I couldn’t understand.

Naturally, I wanted their pain to go away. At the same time, it felt surprisingly comforting to just sit with my friend and share the pain. We were only there for a short time and not a lot was said. Thankfully, my friend soon came through that time.

There was nothing I did to miraculously change things for them. Somehow as two friends sat side by side, with one expressing despair and the other allowing these things to sit between them, things got better.

We want to immediately fix problems because they make us feel uncomfortable. But not all problems can be fixed, or at least not easily. That’s one thing we know well at Lifeline. Often the best way to support others is to be with them as they experience pain, as difficult as this can be. We don’t aim to fix and solve; people can usually do this for themselves. We support people by allowing them to feel and experience their pain, rather than avoid it.

Lifeline provides a safe place and space for this to happen and for people to be heard without judgement, and with compassion. 

We believe that being connected with a community that engages with each other is important for maintaining positive mental health. The tragedy of suicide in Australia is a social concern, not simply a medical or individual challenge. The key to supporting those who are in crisis is embracing them as part of our community.

So today, we joined together to mark World Suicide Prevention Day. As we walked from Dixon Park to Merewether Baths there were many conversations had and connections made. Some people shared stories, others reflected in silence. Walking together is something positive we can do to show those in our community who are struggling, or in crisis, or who have lost someone to suicide, that we care. If you were not able to walk with us this morning but would like to know more about how you can care and support others at a time when they need it the most you may be interested in a range of training we offer  at Lifeline. You can access them via our website –  lifelinehunter.org.au 

A starting point you might like to consider is the one-hour online Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training, which is like CPR for suicide prevention. This is offered through our friends at Everymind and you can access the free training at  everymind.org.au/qpr

By working together as a community, our action and support may just change a life.

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Robert Sams is Lifeline’s local general manager and part of Lifespan Newcastle’s leadership team