Active Minds Blog » empathy Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Worried About a Friend? Here’s How to Support Them Fri, 26 Feb 2016 13:23:48 +0000 For most of my life, I’ve wished that I had some sort of a handbook for being a friend. I think I do a pretty decent job (although, I suppose you’d have to check with my friends on that one), but there’s no way to be there for someone perfectly all the time.

I mean, how many times have I told a friend I knew how they felt without really having any idea whatsoever?

How many times have I just jumped to giving advice and solving the problem when all they needed was a sounding board?

How many times did I know someone was struggling, but I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all?

The truth is that there’s no perfect way to be a friend, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to help a friend admit they need help, seek that help, get the help, and manage their recovery. There are way too many variables in play.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little guide for that journey?

That’s why we created the Be A Friend resources.

If you have questions about whether the warning signs you’re seeing in your friend’s behavior might be a sign of distress, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to react when a friend who is in need of help stops going to therapy, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re wondering how to take care of yourself while you do an incredible job of being an amazing support person, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve also added personal stories from members of the Active Minds Speakers Bureau–they’ll tell you what their journey was like, how friends and family helped them through it all, and their advice for being there for a struggling friend.

It’s not the end all, be all of resources. But we look forward to hearing what you think, adding your stories, and continuing to expand the content to include more specialized resources on identity development and the impacts of trauma and discrimination.

You’re a great friend. We’re just here to help you show it.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Why Empathetic Responses are So Important Wed, 10 Jun 2015 12:31:37 +0000 Phew! The last 2 months finishing up my Emerging Scholars Fellowship project was a whirlwind, but I’m extremely excited by the findings.  When analyzing the interviews for my project, it was a big challenge to make sense of all the different factors related to disclosure: how many people were told, how much information was disclosed, and how disclosure changed when multiple attempts had occurred. To better understand the sequence of events, I started drawing timelines of the events.

The example below highlights one individual who experienced negative reactions from family members following an attempt; yet, her sister responded in a helpful manner. From that point forward, she felt comfortable talking about current suicidal thoughts with her sister. In other words, her sister became a confidant, and her sister helped navigate treatment when needed.



These timelines shed light on one of the study’s most important findings. Participants who reported disclosing current suicidal behavior often had one individual with whom they felt safe talking about suicide: a confidant. Another interesting piece is that participants often had a confidant if they had experienced at least one helpful reaction to a previous suicide disclosure.

This finding is important for two reasons:

  1. It highlights the importance of the initial reaction to disclosure. We need to educate family members and friends about how to respond in a helpful and compassionate way when a loved one discloses current thoughts about suicide or past suicidal behavior.
  2. It shows the lasting effect that a helpful reaction can have. When a safe person with whom to talk was available, most individuals reported talking to that person about their suicidal thoughts and a desire to talk about what they were experiencing as a means of seeking help and processing the experience.

Overall, this project led to many additional questions that will have to be answered by future research studies. For example, we still need to know how we can encourage people to disclose suicidal behavior when they have only experienced negative or hurtful reactions.  I am incredibly grateful to Active Minds and the Scattergood Foundation for this experience, and I look forward to continuing this work on disclosure and advocating for the needs of attempt survivors in the future.

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