For the one tending to the flock: Find the right balance and set boundaries
Three years ago, I first opened up about my struggle with depression through a blog entry entitled “I love Christ, why am I still depressed?” Yesterday's headline was heavy, and I felt the need to resurrect it.
Megachurch pastor and mental health advocate, Jarrid Wilson, died by suicide Monday night. He spoke boldly of his personal struggles to destigmatize the topic of mental health in the church—and beyond. In 2016, he and his wife created Anthem of Hope, a Christian mental health organization “dedicated to amplifying hope for those battling brokenness, depression, anxiety, self-harm and addiction.” Their outreach provides help for the needy through a 24/7 crisis line and mobile application, social media platforms, live events and community groups.
Upon receiving the news, I was in disbelief. How could someone so vocal about his own battles and whose life's purpose was to tend to the flock die by suicide? Still, I am not one to judge. I have been in his place before—more times than I am proud to say. When one is at the bottomless pit of depression, there is nothing but darkness. Some find a way to swim through it, others don't.
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How exactly do you support the supporter? SPARK! (Samahan ng mga Pilipina para sa Reporma at Kaunlaran), in partnership with Vanguard Assessments, explored this specific theme as part of a series highlighting the crucial topic of mental health. Guest speakers, Gisa Paredes, Monica Valdez and Jessica Udani, joined in the conversation last September 6 at Commune in Makati.
Supporters—those who tend to people with mental health struggles—are the unsung heroes. It is a “thankless job,” after all. Licensed psychologist, corporate wellness consultant and Healing Minds founder, Gisa Paredes, has some simple but helpful pointers to keep in mind.
Listening is supporting.
Sometimes, we don't need a solution. Asking a person what they need is already a form of assistance. More importantly, it's okay to say you don't know (how to respond.) Gisa says, “It's okay to say I don't know as well; maybe we can figure it out together. When you tell them what to do, you're not giving them a chance to find their own resources. It also helps to ask questions; it also happens to us in therapy, we hit roadblocks. It's okay to second-guess yourself but also trust that the person you're speaking with has the ability and strength to have answers within.” We look for viable solutions immediately when sometimes, people just really need to open up.
Recharge and reflect.
Know your threshold. Recharging in a healthy manner—as some form of coping mechanism—is important. For Monica, it’s as simple as going to the supermarket; for Jessica, it’s watching her K-Dramas. Gisa shares, “There are realities to it; there are restrictions. It’s in knowing what are the things that I [the supporter] enjoy doing that I don’t need to spend money on. It helps to be able to recall what are the things I’ve accomplished. Saan ako magaling? is a good question to reflect on. If you can also look back at bad situations and see how you went through that. What were the steps that you took to get through that and solve the problem? There is a lot of self-talk that goes into it.”
Find your own supporters.
When you need help, the right people will show up. Community is crucial. She notes, “Aside from just affirming ourselves, it's also important to reach out to people. It helps to be able to find your strong people. It's not just being vulnerable to anybody; real relationships aren't built in a day.” Look for your long-term people and tell your story. A neutral party, like a personal therapist, is also vital for one's mental progress.
There is much that still needs to be addressed when it comes to discussing mental health. Whether you are the supporter or the one that needs support, know that you are not alone.
For those in need of help, the Department of Health has a 24-hour toll-free suicide prevention hotline. You can call (2) 804 4673; +63 (917) 5584673 or send a text message to 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers.
These institutions also offer free psychiatric consultations: Philippine General Hospital, Among Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, National Center for Mental Health, Ateneo Center for Family Ministries, Philippine General Hospital and UST Graduate School’s Psychotrauma Clinic.
Art Alexandra Lara