11 Jun 2018

How to support someone who's struggling

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:17 pm on 11 June 2018

Media reports of famous people taking their own lives can put already-vulnerable people at higher risk.

What can you do if you're worried about the safety of someone you know?

Talk to them directly and support them, says Mental Health Foundation CE Shaun Robinson.

Shaun Robinson

Shaun Robinson Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

As a young man, Shaun attempted suicide before "turning a corner" with the care of his friends and family and some professional help.

"It was really people showing me that they were concerned about me, they liked me being in the world, they cared for me – that's what made the difference."

When someone is unwell, there will often be signs – particularly noticeable to those close to them, Shaun says.

Look out for changes in attitude, behaviour and activity.

"It may be that they sleep or sleep less than they usually do or eat more or eat less … It could be no longer enjoying things they previously enjoyed like sport or a hobby."

Keep an eye on people who have recently been through a tough life event like a breakup, job loss or the death of a loved one, Shaun says.

"Let them know you're there for them and checking out how they're feeling is an important thing that you can do."

No metadata

Speak your concerns.

These conversations take courage and patience, Shaun says.

"People shouldn't be afraid to ask someone that they're really worried about 'Are you thinking about suicide?' Just mentioning that word in a one-to-one way is not going to flip someone over or cause them to take their own life."

Shaun still goes through bouts of depression now. He says that when it hits, he and his friends support each other through text messages and social media.

"There are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people like you and me who have been through really dark times and survived and in fact recovered and gone on to thrive. That's an important thing for people to hear when they're in that dark space."

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.