Caring for yourself as well as others

According to Action for Happiness “Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone. And it’s not all about money – we can also give our time, ideas and energy.”Helping others is a great thing and comes in many different forms – providing financial support, donations, advocating, good deeds, random acts of kindness, emotional support… there is an endless list of ways we can help others.That’s what this post is all about – helping others – more specifically, supporting others with mental health issues when we have mental health issues ourselves.Receiving emotional support is a vital part of recovery for mental health issues, and for mental health management. It comes from various places – friends, family, professionals, peer support groups, and also via friends online.

The mental health community on Twitter is one of the most positive parts of Social Media. There is amazing support and encouragement on there and there are so many people who want to help each other.People provide support via encouraging tweets, DMs, positive quotes etc.
I have seen so many people helping others and how much it is appreciated and it is really inspiring.The reason that MH Crisis Angels was set up was because there were individuals providing constant peer support one to one via Twitter DM. The people providing that emotional support were stretching themselves to be there for every DM that they received and the conversations were obviously very serious and emotional. Many times people reached out because they were feeling hopeless and talked of suicide. Conversations often happened late at night / early hours of the morning because this is when many people feel alone and also when the brain tends to overthink even more so than usual. The world tends to ‘stop’ at night, and that seems to be when the dark thoughts wake up. Ultimately after months of providing support, often for the same individuals – it can become over-demanding.Being one to one with someone via DM when you are not feeling at your best mentally, there is an expectation we often put on ourselves to still provide that person with the emotional support they need, no matter how we feel, or what time it is, no matter what the subject of the conversation is, or if we need sleep because we have to be up for work the following morning. We don’t want to let these people down. Reaching out can be so hard, so we don’t want to turn them down when they make the step to reach out. If we didn’t reply and support them, who would? Would they have the strength to reach out again after having been rejected already?I have seen instances of people who have given themselves to providing support via DM on Twitter, and if they haven’t replied because they haven’t been in that place mentally, they have received abuse for it – is that what people helping others really deserve?This puts further pressure on those helping, to make themselves available to reply to the DMs, but what happens when it becomes too much?Some of the risks of supporting others emotionally can include:- Negative impacts on our own mental health
– We may feel obliged to continue to support when we are not in a position that we are able to support, but do not want to turn someone away
– The conversation topic may be triggering for us
– The person we provide support to may become emotionally dependent
– It can result in developing Compassion Fatigue / Emotional Exhaustion
– You may not be receiving the support you needThat is why one of the things we do on the MH Crisis Angels team is ensure that all referrals are done with the support of the team, so our Angels don’t have to feel individually responsible for the people we help. It is why they will always make a referral to MH Crisis Angels rather than respond individually.When a chat is set up, there are always 2 Angels and the MH Crisis Angels account added to the chat. This means:- If someone reaches out and an Angel has other things on in that moment, they do not feel under pressure to respond sooner than they are able
– If an Angel feels unwell mentally that day, the other Angel in the chat can pick up the chat and provide the necessary support
– If an Angel is struggling with a particular conversation topic (e.g. it could be triggering for them) then there is someone there to pick it up for them as they have another Angel to lead the chat and they can leave or swap with another Angel
– If an Angel is not sure how to respond or what to say, they have the support of the other Angel or the Angel account who may have been in that situation beforeRemember – everyone involved in the chats has first hand experience of living with mental health issues, and it is vital we look after them. This is why we also provide a support system for every person on the team.The MH Crisis Angels not only provide support to service users who are having a hard time themselves, but we also support those who are supporting their friends or family members. Sometimes people may be providing emotional support to others, and we give them that emotional support that they need in order to keep themselves going and from burning themselves out emotionally. (Again, this is similar to like how we have support chats set up for the Angels).If you feel you are struggling supporting someone emotionally please don’t hesitate to use the support system of the Angels – whether it is talking to us for your own emotional support or if it is referring and recommending us to someone who is trying to reach out.If you do support others, please also check out this useful link about looking after yourself while helping others.There are so many support systems out there so remember: you don’t have to take everyone’s problems onto your shoulders… looking after yourself is not selfish, it is necessary…“You can’t pour from an empty cup”“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm”“An empty lantern provides no light”Take care of yourselves, SM 💖

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