I’m worried about someone else  

The importance of peer support

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The way to help is CLEAR

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Asking about suicidal thoughts

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“Support from family, friends and colleagues keeps responders well”

LIFELINES ESSENTIALS #10

By visiting this page, you are demonstrating the importance of peer and social support. We don’t need special training to help our colleagues and friends. Peer support is what keeps most of us well most of the time.  

Watch Gail, Darren, Louise and Adam talking about peer support or look at our quick guides on supporting your team or colleagues.

Below are some key tips about how to go about helping someone else - remember, the way to help is CLEAR...

The way to help is CLEAR

Click on the letters below to see our key tips on how to help or support someone else...

Choose when to ask

Depending on the relationship you might send a text, give them a call, or wait until you see them in person. It could be in or outside work, somewhere neutral like a café, or perhaps going for a walk together. It’s a good idea to choose a setting and time that will make it safe for them to talk if they wish.

Make sure you have enough time to listen so don’t ask when you (or they) only have 5 minutes before needing to rush off.

Don’t overthink your preparation though because you may think you’ve identified the perfect moment and have overlooked the fact that the person doesn’t know about your plan and may not be ready to talk right then. If they're taken by surprise and don't want to talk then that's fine. Let them know you're available to talk if and when they want.

Listen attentively

The Samaritans have produced some great SHUSH tips:

Show you care. Focus on the other person, make eye contact and put away your phone. Have patience, it may take time and several attempts before a person is ready to open up. Use open questions that need more than a yes/no answer and follow up, e.g. “Tell me more”. Say it back to check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution. Have courage. Don’t be out off by a negative response and don’t feel you have to fill a silence

Visit the samaritans website for more information and perhaps have a look at their book "How to Listen - Tools for opening up conversations when it matters most" (Katie Columbus, 2021).

Explain and reassure

When appropriate, help people understand some of the common reactions we have to stress and distress. Being able to make sense of things can make a difference to how we feel about ourselves. Use this website to help explain and reassure you colleagues.

Don’t underestimate the power of listening. Having space to talk and think with someone who cares is often an important step to getting the support we need. You don’t need to fix things or have all the answers. Get alongside, ask them what they need and help them get this if you can

Assist with appropriate support & help

This website contains information on a wide range of support available for people in psychological distress. If you're supporting someone, remind them that support is available and ask if they want help to decide which service to approach. It can be hard to make this first step so you could offer to help make the first phone call.

Don’t put them under pressure but do check in with them later. How did the call go OK? Have they made it yet? Do they need help to make it?

If they’re getting treatment for a mental health condition, stay in contact. Treatment can be hard work and we often need lots of support and encouragement during it. Let them know that you’re there for them and keep in touch, even if it feels one-sided for a while.

Your contact might be about providing practical help, talking or doing something fun together, but the key thing is you’re showing that they’re not alone.  

Remember to look after yourself

It can be hard work supporting someone else, especially if you find yourself in a position where the person has confided in you but isn’t ready or willing to access professional help. Its important people do things at the pace that is right for them but also for you to be realistic about how much support you can provide.  

On rare occasions you may be asked to keep worrying information secret. If it involves risk to themselves or others the you should explain that you can’t do this. They may not be happy about this, but at some level will understand that you need to keep them and other people safe.  

Supporting the mental wellbeing of someone else can have an impact on you so it's important to look after your own wellbeing. Make sure you take time to recharge your own batteries.

Take a break when you need it - If you’re feeling overwhelmed by supporting someone or it’s taking up a lot of time or energy, taking some time for yourself can help you feel refreshed.

Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling - You may want to be careful about how much information you share about the person you’re supporting, but talking about your own feelings to a friend can help you feel supported too.

Get support - from organisations on the Find Help or service specific pages.

Be realistic about what you can do - Your support is really valuable, but it’s up to your family member or friend to seek support for themselves. Remember that small, simple things can help, and that just being there for them is probably helping lots.

Asking about suicidal thoughts

Serious talk about suicide does not create or increase risk; it can help to reduce it. Suicidal thoughts can be frightening and isolating, and it can be a source of relief to be able to talk about these thoughts and feelings. The booklet Suicide.. living with your thoughts from SAMH may be helpful for them to read.

Asking about suicidal thoughts lets us check if they have a plan. If they don’t, then asking won’t increase risk of them making one. But if they do have a plan, it means you can help to keep them safe. Stay with them and get immediate help from a doctor or through one of the helplines listed on our Find Help page.

For more information, get a copy of The art of conversation, a guide to talking, listening and reducing stigma around suicide and watch the Ask, Tell, Save a Life film made as part of Scotland's Suicide Prevention strategy

Your service, your Lifelines

Visit the web pages of Lifelines Scotland Ambulance, Fire & Rescue, Police or Volunteer Responders for extra resources tailored to each service and more information about the specific help available from different organisations.

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