The “H” Words – Mental Health Minute

By: Lisa Philippart
Did you reach out to someone after reading my article two weeks ago? I really HOPE so. Today, my article will be HOPEFUL and HOPEFULLY HELPFUL if you have ever wondered about trying to HELP those possibly considering suicide. (OK, I’ll stop with the “H’s!”) I could regale you with statistics and information about suicide and its epidemic proportions in our country, but what I would rather do is give you some application for what you can do personally…one on one. Even though I know it can be scary and uncomfortable, you may be the one who makes a difference for that person in need.

The first H is Here and Hear. The most important thing you can do for someone who is hurting or depressed is to be present. You are both with them and listening. Most of us just ask, “How are you?” Expecting the answer to be “Fine.” And we both move on. But if the answer is not fine, then maybe that person needs you. Maybe that person was waiting for someone to ask, so they could connect, even if just for a few minutes. You can learn to read body language and verbal cues. Even if you have never done this before, take just two minutes to ask, “What’s going on?” That person may only need your presence to reaffirm that they do matter.

The second H is Help. How can you help? Just ask. “Is there anything I can do?” You will be surprised that some people will take you up on it, so be prepared when you might actually have to do something! There is a fine line here because you are asking as someone who cares, not as a professional. So, if you sense that this person may need more than you are able to provide, you can suggest a couple of options. One is for that person to seek counseling. Secondly, did you know that there is a Helpline through Crisis Services of North Alabama? This is a wonderful resource for all types of crises. Their number is 256-715-1000. And lastly, you might recommend that the person seek out someone in the church family. Some people are more comfortable seeking help through their faith base.

And the last H is Hope. As a friend or fellow human being, you can be encouraging and supportive providing that feeling of hopefulness and optimism. Simply saying, “I believe things will get better,” or “I’m here for you,” or even “I care about you” will go a long way. Many of the clients I see have become stuck in a life that is no longer working for them. They can’t figure out how to get unstuck and have sometimes even given up on ever being able to be happy again. Hope is a powerful word because it provides people with the belief and faith that their lives can get better. You can have an impact on someone in need. If you get a chance, check out the movie, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” You might never know how your life has affected another, but it is still worth the effort. May you be that giver of hope.
Until next time…..Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Martin Luther