Simple Steps for Offering Help

Thanks to our dedicated readers, we receive lots of questions—and here’s one that came in recently:

What are some immediate steps teachers and other concerned adults can take, even if they are not trained in mental health support, to help students who are hurting?

This is an especially good question to consider as the holiday season approaches. Many times, families have expectations that drive stress: either that things should be perfect; or that things will probably be super-hard, and we won’t know how to respond. And those expectations can bleed over into classroom situations as young people anticipate the holidays.

The first step is to recognize the difficulty.

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So if we’re not trained professionals, how can we support our children? Here are some ideas:

  • Watch for “HALT”: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Any of these signs can exacerbate the blues.
  • Hungry: Make sure they’re eating and drinking in moderation. When we’re feeling down, alcohol actually makes it worse, because it’s a depressant—so offer your college student water or apple cider with dinner.
  • Angry: Take care of anger by listening consciously. Here is a TED Talk about how conscious listening can help in our relationships.
  • Lonely: Listening also takes care of loneliness. Talking openly can be very helpful.
  • Tired: Get enough sleep—not too little, not too much. Sometimes oversleeping can make the blues worse, and getting out of bed on the early side can help.

Put out paints, paper, and markers! The creative process actually releases chemicals in the brain that counter depression.

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Finally, it’s important to be aware of and to adjust expectations. Holiday times trigger unrealistic expectations that everyone will automatically get along and there will magically be no conflict. When conflict happens, our bubbles burst and we can become resentful.

This is why taking quiet time for ourselves at holiday gatherings is so important. A five-minute breather in an empty bedroom can help us reset out minds and remember that we can’t control anyone else’s behavior but our own.

What are some ways you have found to help a young person in your life who is hurting? Sharing our experience not only helps others, it also helps ourselves—so let us know your ideas in the comments.


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