Supporting someone in distress

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1. Active listening with people who are worried or distressed
Active listening is even more important

Show you care: really focus on the person, make eye contact, put away your phone

  • Dont talk about yourself at all
  • How are you feeling today?

Have patience: it may take time and even several attempts before the person is ready to open up

  • Trust and safety is all

Open questions

  • 'Tell me more...'
  • Provide a space to pause, think and reflect

Have COURAGE: don't be put off by a negative response or feel you need to fill a silence

Many people are not sure if they should talk about their worries

  • Who to ask?
  • How to discuss them?
  • When to discuss them?

We need to notice but not push

  • Notice when people are worried or concerned
  • Avoid pushing people to talk about things they don't want to discuss
2. Demonstrate calmness

Keep speech volume normal: not raise or too quiet​. Talk in a normal tone to show that you don’t feel threatened, angry or shocked

  • This will show respect and care for the person

Be assertive:​

  • Understand the situation that the person is in
  • Control your own personal emotions and stay calm
  • Use the right body language
  • Use the right words and statements

This is an illustration of what calmness looks like on a human male body, this includes relaxed forehead, head at a slight angle, relaxed shoulders, relaxed posture, low musle tension, open hands, closed mouth relaxed face, varied glance, and varied eye contact.
3. Alleviate a person's distress

Stay calm​ Be assertive​ Use active listening skills​ Create the right emotions and atmosphere​ Be aware of your own body language​ Use supportive verbal language

4. Remember that you are NOT a counsellor, therapist or medical practitioner

You can use good communication skills and genuine empathy to enable a person to express how they feel about what is causing them worry or distress AND how to find out about addressing it​

NEVER probe a person to talk about more than they want to because this can cause extreme distress if not handled by trained experts 

5. Adapt to a person's situation

Stay with them and continue to communicate with empathy​

Leave them alone for a while to have a cup of tea or watch TV to an hour or so​

Suggested that they pop/phone in tomorrow or next week to have another chat and proactively suggest a time​

Call for assistance if you are​

  • Concerned about the person and/or​
  • You’re concerned about your ability to offer support
6. Workbook exercise (1)

Workbook exercise Workbook Exercise

Workbook exercise (1)

Think about an occasion when  you have supported a person who was distressed.​ How did you feel about the immediate support you gave?

Think about:​

  • Acceptance​
  • Trust & genuineness​
  • Empathy​
  • Establishing rapport​
  • Active listening​

How did you adapt your support to reflect these five key elements? 

Reflect on your support to the person:​

  • How did you know what they needed?​
  • Do you feel that your support made a difference to that person?
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