This is part of a two series from WorldTour rider, Brodie Chapman. If you, or someone around you needs help, please reach out to Lifeline Australia on the numbers below.
It’s okay to not be okay but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy route to navigate.
We are being encouraged to be more open around mental health struggles and share our inner voices and vulnerability with our peers.
While this is a huge step forward, it’s still a really difficult step.
Why? Because of how others actually respond to this openness, privy to an individual’s dark moments and despair, isn’t always comfortable or pleasant. So how do we then help a person who has been brave enough to reach out?
Have you ever known someone to become snappy, withdrawn, pessimistic, absent? Or erratic and anxious? What about when a normally jovial colleague has recently “changed” and isn’t such a blast to be around with their recent ‘bad attitude’?
Consider your cycling mate who has recently shown up to fewer and fewer bunch rides. Your Friday pub buddy who can no longer stop at one or two beers. Your friend who has stopped eating anything of substance and is body checking constantly.
There are many behavioural manifestations of ‘mental ill health.’ When someone, or you, become like this, it feels very much not okay not to be okay. It is a state that they don’t really want to exist in but find it hard to break out and ask for help or admit their struggles.
We have to remember that not everyone can articulate their inner experiences. Depression and anxiety don’t discriminate – not everyone even has the words or the safe environment around them to express how they feel or perhaps they have tried in the past and been shut down or made fun of by family or friends.
It’s not your job to perk someone up constantly or be their therapist, or to inquire about their emotional state at any opportunity. But if their undesirable behaviour has compelled you to ignore or avoid them….this person can become further isolated than they might have already made themselves.
Sometimes people recognise their ill behaviour and isolate themselves on purpose with a sense of burden to their peers. Especially if they have been typically “fun” in the past.
When someone says they are not okay. What are you actually going to do?
Here is what I have found has helped me in the past and helped others who have reached out to me.
You can just listen. Honestly, the very fact the person is talking about it and organising their chaotic thoughts into words is a win.
Listening also acknowledges their experience, which is a form of empathy. Do not underestimate the power of simply listening, and making it known that you hear them.
Express empathy. Repeat to them what you are hearing, for example “that must be hard for you” or “ can imagine that would be really difficult to deal with” you are simply validating their experience and not trying to put it in perspective or giving advice.
Maybe you can relate to that person’s experience. If so, be careful not to belittle their experience by trying to ‘outdo’ them with your own.
It’s about employing authentic empathy and showing that you understand without them having to explain or justify their inner workings to you, a person who understands what it feels like. Programs modelled around support groups work so we’ll because of a shared struggle, which is equally as rewarding when it becomes shared success.
If you feel like you can really give some advice, it might be best to ask the person first if you can ‘offer’ some advice and they can then choose if that is what they are in a state to receive. If you just start dishing out advice the person may feel as if their problems should be easily solvable like you express, or that you aren’t really hearing how much pain they are in.
Sometimes the best form of advice is referral by suggesting resources to them. If you are at a loss of how to help with their really heavy stuff, do some research and be at the ready with some mental health resources that can help them, like Lifeline or a good book or blog that is written by an expert.
If there is someone you know who is really deep in a hole, who you fear might be suicidal; the following perspective really helped me see how I can be a small help. It’s not that they don’t want to live, it’s that they want life as they know it to end.
By offering our compassion and giving a person hope, can help guide their perspective towards a better life experience than the one they know now. We may not be in a position to change their life circumstances, but we can perhaps be a part of changing how they experience it.
The next blog I will talk about is what to do if it is you who is suffering, how to recognise the signs and offer some personal perspectives and tactics that have helped me in the past.
If you, or a friend need help there are services available such as Lifeline. Lifeline is Australia’s leading suicide prevention service – 13 11 14 or text them on 0477 13 11 14
DONATE TO LIFELINE
If you’d like to make a donation to Lifeline, you can do so via the Hope Cycle website here.
It is through connecting with others, we find hope. Lifeline is the leading provider of crisis support and suicide prevention in Australia. Currently they are answering a call from someone in crisis every 30 seconds, receiving over a million calls every year but they cannot answer all the calls for help.
Through the Hope Cycle we are aiming to raise $100,000. Funds raised will deliver national crisis support services for those in their darkest moment and further support communities impacted by COVID, bushfires and ongoing drought across Australia.