Showing Empathy and Understanding to Those Who Need Help

By Emily Brooks | Dec. 16, 2015

When living with a mental health condition, it can weave through all aspects of our lives. In addition to managing our own private conflicts with symptoms or medications, we may also balance external pressures and limitations, such as stigma, tension at work or increased financial burden. When this becomes unbearable, it can feel as though we’re trapped in a corner—with everything and everyone trying to get the best of us. Unfortunately, these are the times when we are stretched thin, and there is little of ourselves free to give.

In situations like these, it can help to know that there are others out there who understand because they’ve been through it too. NAMI’s online discussion groups are a great way to get involved with an encouraging community that’s always available. Some people may prefer in-person reassurance through our local NAMI support groups. At NAMI, we may offer peer support or referrals to warm lines, which serve as an outlet to vent, get feedback and connect with other people who can empathize.

 

When confronted with so many demands, it’s natural to buckle under the pressure. Our brain’s inherent response to threatening levels of stress is to enter “fight or flight” mode. Although flight guarantees our safety by removing us from the source of fear, it is ultimately a short-term solution. When we fight, we make a choice to face these challenges head-on and triumph by advocating for ourselves. Choosing to fight shows we have hope; we’re willing to take risks and stand up for the recovery we know we deserve, no matter what stands in our way.

Although we may feel apprehensive when we decide to take charge, this is an empowering choice. You are not alone in this fight! Taking the NAMI StigmaFree pledge is a simple way to declare your resolve, spread mental health awareness and use education to further acceptance. If you’d like to take your advocacy to the next level, see what mental health policy issues currently need your support. To determine solutions for your own fight, you can always call the NAMI HelpLine to identify what tools and resources are available to you.    

 

In the midst of it all, there is NAMI. You may wonder, “How is NAMI different from everyone else?” Although it may be our first time speaking with you, we know that NAMI could be the 15th number you’ve called today. It’s understandable to feel jaded and lower our expectations after encountering much of the same. NAMI is distinct from other organizations not because of what we offer, but how we offer it. Here at NAMI, we’re not professionals, doctors or lawmakers—we’re folks living with a personal connection to mental illness, and we know what it’s like.

When you call NAMI, we offer connections to local outreach and support. More importantly, though, we try to offer hope. Nothing’s worse than being put on hold, transferred, or added to an endless queue. When you call NAMI, we want you to feel heard, to know that your call is important, and to can gain something meaningful through our conversation.

 

Often times, it’s tough to take that first step and reach out for help. It may also be difficult to remain helpful and present when someone needs our support. To succeed, we need to give each other the chance to work together, which doesn’t always come naturally. It’s easy to be combative, especially when we’re in fight mode. Our instinct is to defend ourselves when dealing with uncomfortable situations.

It’s important to remember why we’re having this conversation in the first place: to help, to learn and to connect. When we view each other as a potential threat, we have already decided to enter flight modewe’re running away from true understanding. It can feel vulnerable to follow the pathways that lead to insight, but if we walk together, we can face them with resilience. When you’re ready to share your story, submit to our blogs OK2Talk and You Are Not Alone. There, you can lead the way for those who are gathering the courage to open up, or find help from those who already know which ways to go. If you need help getting started, view our information on disclosing to others or supporting recovery.

 

When we let our guard down, we make room for empathy and understanding. We must consider that the other person may be coming from a place of fear, confusion or hurt. Although we should validate those feelings, we cannot let them interfere with the quality of our interaction. By imagining how we might react upon encountering the situation in our own lives, we allow ourselves to develop solutions that will be intuitive and accessible.

If we unify our vision for growth, we can partner to accomplish more. NAMI’s Education Classes serve as a valuable opportunity to share lessons and skills together. By viewing success as our responsibility to each other, we invest in the conversation. As Shannon L. Alder wrote, “When ‘I’ is replaced by ‘We,’ even illness becomes wellness.” At NAMI, we’re here for you. Call us at 800-950-NAMI (6264) from Monday-Friday, between 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST.

Comments
Elizabeth R Mach
I am a member of NAMI Topeka and I Volunteer @ NAMI Kansas 2 or 3 times a week.Yes when I joined NAMI it was back in 2013 in 9-14-2013.IT has help me with my recover in many was by getting throw the day and helpes me get out of the house.I have been in a lot of places like the names above my comment yes I have been there so I know what others are talking about.This is my story about when I started with NAMI other people out there that have a mental illness can do what I do just say I can do this to.
1/27/2016 8:42:40 PM

Terry
We do IOOV presentations at Crisis Intervention Training for police officers. Recently an officer commented, ' no wonder he didn't do what I told him to do, my voice wasn't the only that he was hearing'.
1/2/2016 6:01:45 PM

Kathy Hill
Interested
12/28/2015 5:57:01 PM

cokie
I have a 31 year old son who just had a monumental psychotic episode. He woke me up around midnight yelling Mom! We got to get out of here. I was groggy and did not get up fast enough--he took my car and the next thing I knew the police in Rogers called to say they pulled him over, I asked that he bring himself and the car home, They let him go and instead of coming home he headed further north to Princeton, where several squad cars were after him, he was speeding to get away from his evil enemies. He zoomed down a road that ended with a T to go left or right. He did neither and flew across the cross road and into a muddy swamp where he scooped up a ton of mud into the the engine compartment and got stuck in the muck. He got out of the car leaving mud all over the wheel, and ran into a corn field with several police officers pursuing him. Fortunately they did not hurt him and he came out of hiding on his own. They did the right thing -- they called am ambulance and sent him to a hospital with a decent psychiatric department. He has been there going on three weeks, he said they are giving him a different medication and he likes it better. He doesn't seem to care for me much right now...I'm just waiting to see if he changes his mind. I am glad he did not get killed, or harm anyone else.
12/23/2015 11:05:10 PM

Ava
I know exactly how this feels....it is so good to see that someone gets it!
12/17/2015 2:58:27 PM

Edwin Rutsch
For a cornucopia of resources on empathy see the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
http://CultureOfEmpathy.com
We are also working on creating a online empathy training wiki if you would like to be part of that or know others that would.
warmly
Edwin
director
Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
12/17/2015 12:50:41 AM