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The first step in being there for people is, well, just being there

January 29, 2020 | Society, Health
I remember this very low point in high school when I was putting a ton of pressure on myself. I remember the panic and anxiety, and I remember feeling very alone in those feelings – that I couldn’t talk about them because I felt this shame and embarrassment for even feeling that way in the first place. That made things even worse.

I saw the people I cared about in my life wanting to be there for me, but not necessarily knowing how. And I think many of us are a little bit like them. We want to be there for other people, but we worry. How do we make sure someone is okay without it seeming like we’re calling them out for acting a certain way? What if we do or say the wrong thing? What if we make that person feel worse?

The first step, I think, is to just be there. To start a conversation. To listen – really listen – and not try to fix things. To make space for people, realizing that they may or may not choose to use it. In high school we created a group where people could come and talk about mental health. Sometimes people came to those meetings, and other times I was the only person in the room. And that was fine. The most important thing was being there for people and making space for conversations about our mental health to feel normal, because those conversations are normal.

We do a lot of the same things in MacEwan’s chapter of Jack.org. We organize events and activities, but we also have weekly meetings that are just a safe space where anyone can come and talk. Sometimes we have themed discussions. Sometimes we talk about our own experiences with mental health. And other times we just sit around and colour together. We’re not therapists and we’re not psychologists, but we can be there for other students. We can listen. We can share resources. And we can make sure they don’t feel alone.

– Alycia, Bachelor of Science student and chapter lead of Jack.org MacEwan, one of the more than 100 student groups on campus.

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