Helping someone start the journey


Seeking help in the mental health system for the first time can often be an overwhelming experience. The person may already be feeling difficult emotions, such as shame or guilt, which can make it harder to advocate for themselves. 

By the time they reach the professional who will be helping them, they may feel exhausted or even defeated. It may also be difficult for them to see the value in making future plans or to see the progress they have made in their journey just by taking those first steps.  

If you are working with someone who may be experiencing these feelings, it’s important to remember to start slowly and to be gentle with them and yourself. Forging a connection can be challenging, and it is the critically important foundation for everything else that follows. 

Here are some strategies you can try to collaborate with them and convey your commitment to supporting their journey. 

  • Validate
    • “I know it can be difficult to find the right clinician, and I’m glad that you are here.”
    • “I understand that you have been through a lot in your life.” 
  • Express unconditional commitment. 
    • “I want you to know that my team and I are committed to helping you see options for the future even though you are feeling stuck and those options are hard for you to see right now.”
  • Invite a small start. 
    • “It may be hard to believe we are in your corner. Could we try one of the small things on your plan together to see how it goes? Even if you don’t think it could work - maybe try it as an experiment? What’s the worst that could happen?”

Note: This is one of the More than Safety Newsletters that are shared weekly. SafeSide members in our Community of Practice have access to the full library of newsletters and resources. 

Acknowledgement of Country
SafeSide Prevention acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work. We recognise and respect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of this country. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Acknowledgement of Lived Experience
We acknowledge the lived experience of those with suicide and mental illness, their families and carers. Their preferences, wishes, needs, and aspirations are at the heart of all the work we do.

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