Maybe one of the ways to get beyond the label is to see the beauty in our children, and give them the space to be expressive while providing them love and support.
The answer is pretty simple, but we can get overwhelmed with presumed responsibility of taking care of everything, and immediately. We look for the instant fix that is going to make everything better; in most cases, there is no instant fix, and our efforts are not going to take care of everything.
We need to shift our thinking away from being the sole answer to our friends’ needs and focus more on how we can contribute to helping them along the path toward wellness.
Here are ten things you can do to be that friend, to be that line of love to someone in need.
1. Acknowledge. One of the easiest things you can do is acknowledge to your friend that he or she has seemed distant or nor his or her “usual” self. Isolation or “alone time” is not what a friend usually needs in such times. Take the time to reach out, recognize that you have noticed a change in mood or behavior, and let the person know you care.
2. Listen. Allow your friend to talk, and without interruption. Keep your focus on them, not your phone, and look into their eyes when they talk. Show that you are listening without judgment. Demonstrate that you are not trying to solve their problems. Just listen. For many, this is the only way they know how to “get it out” and to manage what is happening to them. When they are sharing, be fully present as a listener; you don’t need to be anything else (nor do they want you to be).
3. Understand. When you do respond, share that you understand what they are feeling and what they have expressed. Don’t try to solve, and don’t try to dig deeper with questions that might sound judgmental or even condescending. If you have a story to share that will help your friend understand your empathy, share it — but again, without trying to solve anything or sounding like your situation was worse (“You think YOU got it bad…listen to THIS.”). It’s not a competition; it’s just an acknowledgment that you understand, and they are not alone.
4. Stay Close. We have never been more connected, locally and globally — and yet, there are times when we have never felt more isolated. Provide your contact information, if your friend does not already have it, and check in with them on a routine basis. Sometimes, random texts and messages of positivity or just checking in can make a world of difference. Don’t hesitate to reach out and let them know that you are there, thinking of them.
5. Have Patience. Just because you have acknowledged, listened, understood, and stayed close, it doesn’t mean that your friend will now have a happy life of wellness, 24/7. Remember: You are not a solution; you are a contributor and supporter toward a healthy lifestyle. There will be ups and downs, and your friend will need you to be there regardless of how good or bad things might seem. Abandon the idea that it is a quick fix; friends are there for the long journey.
6. Encourage Wellness. Taking a friend out for a night of fun at the local club is not necessarily what he or she needs. Alcohol and drug use does not solve the problem; it intensifies it. Any temporary “relief” that might come from alcohol or drug use ultimately produces the same — often more severe — negative effect on that person. Instead of manipulating the mind and body with alcohol and drugs, find healthy alternatives that will provide long-lasting effects that promote wellness and independence.
7. Know (and share) Your Numbers. There are local, state, and national crisis centers and hotlines that are meant for both those who are struggling and those who have a friend who is in need. The National Crisis Hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For a longer list of crisis numbers and centers, check out this earlier post on how to get immediate help. Share these numbers with your friend. Let them know that there is always somebody available, ready to listen.
8. Suggest Professional Assistance. In addition to providing local and national crisis hotlines, remind your friend of the professional resources that are currently available, including counselors, counseling and intervention centers, wellness classes and sessions, and school or work assistance centers or services. Many of these are free, covered by insurance, or require only a small or nominal fee. Make sure your friend knows that such assistance is not a replacement for you being there; it is just another collaborative partner on this journey toward wellness.
9. Empower With Positivity And Wellness Tools. Walking outdoors is one of the best activities you can do with a friend who is struggling with depression. Listening to appropriate music or reading materials that promote positive or uplifting lifestyles is another way to surround yourself with stimuli that encourage control, positivity, and overall wellness. Identify the triggers for depression or mental illness, and help you your friend remove them from his or her lifestyle. Crushing lyrics about being alone, books with depressed individuals as the central characters, and even videos or games that foster negativity can all contribute to an unhealthy way of living. Recognize the negative or stress triggers, and replace them with positive, motivating stimuli.
10. Be A Line Of Love. Educate yourself about depression, mental illness, and anxiety so that you can have a better understanding of what others might be going through, and so you can help others remove the stigma attached to mental illness. Be aware of programs and events in your area that might be beneficial to others (AFSP walks is one good example). Check through our own ways at Lines of Love to let others know that they are not alone (our Bracelet Makers program continues to be one of our most popular ways people can get involved).
We encourage you to share your stories as a friend, or as an individual working toward wellness, at Querencia: A Literary Advocacy Project. Lines of Love and Querencia are working together to educate, promote awareness, and end the silence through stories, poetry, and exclusive interviews.
Being a friend to someone in need is not hard; the benefits they reap from your kindness and understanding, however, might be life-changing. Don’t hesitate to be a Line of Love. Share these ten tips to help with others, and encourage them to be Lines of Love for the people in their own lives.
It doesn’t matter if you are struggling with mental illness, if you are sad about the physical illness of loved ones, or if you are having any kind of hardship: You Are Not Alone.
We see individuals in need all the time, wherever we go: at the grocery store, in our school, in our workplace, in our home. We even struggle with how to help, or we feel bad if we don’t do anything at all.
This morning, I needed to run to the store to pick up some cream. I arrived about 3 minutes before the doors opened, and I was joined by a handful of people who were waiting as well. Most of us talked about the usual things: weather (of course) and how much we love Trader Joe’s. One woman, in her mid-40’s, stood a little off to the side, silent.
When the doors opened, I stood to the right while the others walked in. She hesitated and gestured for me to go ahead, but without looking at me. I smiled, did not budge, and simply said, “after you.”
She caught my eyes then, and seemed a little surprised. She thanked me with genuine appreciation, and walked through the open doors.
I have no idea if she is struggling with anything in her life, but I do know that those 3 seconds that we shared carried with them a message of support, of understanding. “You Are Not Alone” resonated, and I hope she carries it with her, as I will as well.
At Lines of Love, we are here for all individuals, young and old. We do not question what is troubling you. We do not judge you. We do not have any expectations for reciprocity.
It’s just pretty simple and straightforward: You Are Not Alone. With those four words, we have the strength of a thousand sunrises to carry on, together, no matter what challenges we might face.
We continue to receive bracelets from all over the country, and we are grateful for the care and love that has gone in to each bracelet, each note, each tag. When we open each envelope and package, we feel the compassion, the love, and the support that you are giving the Newtown community. We will never be able to say “Thank You” enough.
Recently, there have been numerous reports in the published media that Newtown has been overwhelmed with gifts of love and support. Warehouses are being filled as items are catalogued and stored. Some of you have contacted us directly and have asked, “What will happen with our bracelets? Will they ever really reach the people who need them the most?”
In a single word, Yes.
Earlier today, I had a conversation with a Howard County, MD resident who grew up in Newtown, CT and is an alum of Sandy Hook Elementary School. This individual has agreed to carry all of your bracelets that you have so graciously made and hand-deliver them to the teachers and residents affected most directly by this tragedy. We offer this individual our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for making sure your bracelets reach the people who need them the most.
From your hearts to theirs, line by line, person to person, our collective Lines of Love will reach Newtown.
Please continue to send your bracelets, notes, and tags, and please do your best to have them postmarked by January 7, 2013. If for some reason you will be a day or two late with putting them in the mail, we will certainly wait for your package to arrive.
Once again, the address is:
Lines of Love
PO Box 9738
Towson, MD 21284
Thank you, every one of you. We are grateful for your lines of love.
Although our National Campaign is only 4 days old, we are making great strides in gaining support from all corners of the country. We are grateful to supporters in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. Thank you so much for being lines of love to the Newtown Community.
I have received emails from people all over the country wanting to help in a variety of ways. Some are not too sure how to make bracelets, others want to organize statewide rallies and events to make 100 or more bracelets. And, we have a few people who are not too sure exactly what this campaign is all about. I want to take this opportunity to explain exactly what we are doing, and how you can participate in five different ways.
First — What Is This National Lines of Love Campaign All About?
Simply put, Lines of Love, a group comprising teens in Ellicott City, MD, connects people (who are struggling) with the resources they need. Sometimes, that means other teens or young adults struggling with anxiety or depression. At other times, Lines supports victims of bullying. In everything we do, we believe in promoting wellness, kindness, and compassion for others in and beyond their respective communities. For the grieving members of the Sandy Hook community, we are providing Lines of Love from all over the country to remind them in this time of need that they are not alone. And, as time moves on and the rest of the country begins to resume a “normal” way of life, we hope that the bracelets made by friends from around the country will continue to provide a reminder that they are still not alone, and they never will be.
Here are five ways you can be a part of that lifelong reminder.
- Make Bracelets. We provide instructions for our “classic” Lines of Love bracelet here. You can vary your pattern, as well as your colors. All we ask is that you do your best to include yellow (for Lines of Love) and green and white (Sandy Hook’s school colors).
- Plan An Organized Event. This can be as simple as getting a few friends together to watch a good movie and make bracelets for a couple of hours. Or, you can plan a college-wide event with a sorority, sports team, or organization/club to make special bracelets that, in some way, weave your group with Sandy Hook. Maybe you add your own school color to the bracelet, or you add a charm that shows unity and support.
- Donate Green, Yellow, and White Embroidery Floss/Thread. Find a group that is making bracelets, or if you have children, simply buy the thread, print out the instructions, and encourage them to make bracelets for this community.
- Make Bracelet Tags. This is a very easy way to get involved if you don’t want to or can’t make bracelets. We made tags that were of a heavy card stock, 1 inch wide by 4.25 inches long. We then punched a hole in one end and decorated the tags with quotes, phrases, and plenty of colors (see the sample in the picture at the top of this post). Each bracelet will have a personally handwritten tag attached to it. We have about 100 already made; we need 900 more!
- Contact Your Local Media. You can download a copy of the press release here. Contact them through Facebook, their own media websites, or via fax to the TV or radio station. If you know of an event going on in your area, invite the media to attend, and give them a background of Lines of Love and the purpose of the campaign.
All materials should be postmarked by December 31, 2012 and sent to LINES OF LOVE, PO BOX 9738, TOWSON, MD 21284. However, we plan on sending more “waves” of bracelets as they come in to us. If you miss this deadline, please don’t feel like it is too late to get involved. Drop us a note and tell us what’s coming, and we’ll get you scheduled for the next shipment.
Finally, some people have asked me, “How can I stay involved in Lines of Love?” At Lines, we believe the following: Once a member, always a member. You will forever be a part of our national team of Lines, connecting people to the resources they need, offering hope, faith, and love in all ways.