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What to say? And what not to say?

(7 Posts)
lottie63 Sun 14-Apr-13 10:30:19

I'm planning on visiting a friend and colleague (not especially close) who is in a pretty distressing state... he is saying he wants to end it all. This will be the first time I'll have seen him since he signed off work for mental health reasons.

He will want to talk about things that happened at work (eg. He believes the source for his mental health problems stem from workplace 'bullying' which is quite possibly a legitimate take).

Please help me handle this constructively for him. Do I keep topics on a light hearted level? (Children, holidays etc) or would that be insensitive to his needs in that he may want to go over very painful events related to work. Should I just let him talk and me listen? What if he asks for advice? He's been signed off work for a year I think (I'm not trained in any counselling skills). I think he's having a breakdown, feels isolated and that no-one cares. I want to help, to make sure my visit doesn't make him worse. I cannot not visit.

Moominsarehippos Sun 14-Apr-13 10:37:47

I would go and let him talk. Listen to him and don't disagree but put your ideas/opinions across. Is he having any councelling or treatment?

Listen anbd let him speak. He will probably need to get it off his chest. As (we) therapsts say 'be empathetic, not sympathetic'.

Moominsarehippos Sun 14-Apr-13 10:43:10

Actually, would he go for a walk or for a cup of tea somewhere? Maybe getting him out of the house would help. Often people just don't want to go out/get up when they are depressed.

He needs to be seeing his doctor if he isn't on any medication.

I'd be wary of getting into discussions about workplace issues especially if there is any kind of tribunal or grievance going on. You could end up being tied up in a very tricky situation, so think carefully about what you say about that.

lottie63 Sun 14-Apr-13 11:11:49

Thanks Moomin. Yes, I think he is seeing the dr and presumably under medication. In talk terms, explicitly then, what sort of things do I say to be 'empathetic' as opposed to 'sympathetic'. What interactional strategies do I use in addition to listening? There has been one recent lovely event in his life which is in danger of being smothered by all the other depression stuff I think. Should I try to chat about that to foreground the positive?

Moominsarehippos Sun 14-Apr-13 11:30:54

I'd let him talk to start off.

Let him set the tone but try to steer him off the dark stuff, although it is good for him to be able to talk. Keep your comments neutral, oh, yes, I see how that would make you feel bad, etc so not 'that's awful! I could cry for you!'

It's good to remind people of the good stuff in their life/past successes. It lets them remember that the have been happy/successful and therefore can be again.

Try to prompt what he'd like to do in the future. Ask what he wants to be doing a year from now - don't take 'I'll be dead by then/same as now/it will never get better...' As an answer. Try to prod him to a positive future - get a new job, leave this crap behind him, get healthy, positive etc. Once you start 'seeing' a future for yourself, you can start taking steps towards it.

He may have hobbies or interests that he just doesn't bother with any more. Ask about these, see what would help him to take them up again/ try new ones.

Ask how he feels the treatment is going. Be positive about what he feels working and if there is something that isn't, remind him that not everything works for every person, so to speak to his doctor about it.

Kepp upbeat and light, and try not to take his depression on board.

Moominsarehippos Sun 14-Apr-13 11:32:36

Oh and take tissues. I cry at the drop of a hat if I talk about myself when I'm not depressed.

lottie63 Sun 14-Apr-13 11:44:57

This is really helpful. Thankyou so much.

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