Today, as I was driving to work, I remembered an acquaintance with whom I’ve lost touch. I recalled her struggles with anorexia and bulimia and wondered how she’s doing. My mind began stirring up the many people I’ve encountered and felt some concern about, those who looked unhealthy, said they were depressed, or were being self-destructive in some way. And I thought about how helpless I continually feel, even with three years of training in counseling techniques, when it comes to approaching someone and expressing my concern. I think my hesitation comes from this fear that I’ll “upset” someone by expressing my concern. At the same time, I think of how damaging it could be to NOT tell someone that I care. My mind goes through all the “what ifs” and forgets that here, before me right now, is a human being I care about in some way who may need (and not even know it) my support.
Do you ever struggle with such things? Do you have a friend, family member, or co-worker that you worry about but haven’t shared your concern with? What do we do in these situations? Although I struggle with this myself, here are some things we can all keep in mind:
1. Start with “I’m concerned about you.”
2. Share your concrete observations of the person’s behavior. (e.g., “I don’t see you eating much to supplement all the exercise you’re doing.”)
3. Diffuse any resistance or defensiveness you encounter from the person. (e.g., “I hear what you’re saying. I just wanted to share my concern because I care about you.”)
4. Offer your ear. (e.g., “If you want to talk about anything, I’m here for you.” or “If you want to talk, but don’t want to talk to me, I can help you find some outside support.”)
5. Remember that you cannot control the individual’s response. You can only control your own attitude, thoughts, and feelings.
For more help with how to share your concern with someone, check out the following links:
When concerned someone might have an eating disorder: http://www.something-fishy.org/helping/whatyoucando.php
(For other resources on how to talk to a friend with eating or body image issues, check out the National Eating Disorders Association: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org)
When concerned someone might be struggling with drug or alcohol addiction: http://www.drugfree.org/intervention/helpingothers/teenteen/helping_a_friend
When concerned someone might be experiencing depression: http://www.bucknell.edu/x7845.xml
Peace, joy, and health!