By Grace Dille
The LGBT Equity Center and Counseling Center at this university led a joint discussion in Marie Mount Hall Oct. 6 to talk about ways of supporting friends and family who might be struggling with mental health issues.
LGBT Equity Center Coordinator Sika Wheeler and Counseling Center psychologists Dr. Carlton Green and Dr. Allison Asarch facilitated the discussion as a way of providing students with a safe place to ask questions.
“I so often tell students to go to their personal support circle, but I wondered what that was like for some people or if they even had one,” Wheeler said.
The discussion offered a casual small group model, in which students took to couches and beanbags to share their personal difficulties they have encountered while trying to support loved ones.
Dr. Asarch reminded students that transparency can be especially useful when dealing with tough situations, and stressed the importance of asking their loved ones whether the advice or support they provided was comforting to them.
“We don’t have to wonder if what we’re doing is helpful,” Dr. Asarch said. “It’s okay to ask them — ‘Does this feel helpful?’ ‘Is there something else I can do?’”
Dr. Green told attendees that if offering their loved one support starts to take too much of an emotional or physical toll on themselves, that it’s okay to take a step back and redirect them to professional help.
“‘I don’t know if I’m the best person to give you that kind of support, and I don’t think it’s going to be healthy for you or me. However, I can help you find support if that’s what you need,’” Dr. Green suggested as an example.
“It may be a catalyst for them to then go seek [professional] help,” Dr. Asarch added.
Both psychologists emphasized that being a sole support system for someone can be very difficult, and that it may become emotionally draining to process that a loved one is going through such a hard time.
“There are times when we want to be super available [for our loved one], but then we realize, ‘Oh my god, this is a lot.’ That’s when we step back,” Dr. Asarch said.
When several of those in attendance said that they, too, struggle with mental health problems of their own, Dr. Green and Dr. Asarch reiterated that if supporting others is becoming detrimental to their health, it’s okay to seek help.
“We often think the help is reserved for [others], but the help is for everyone,” Dr. Asarch said.