relationships

Supporting Someone with a Mental Illness

 
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Know someone with a mental illness?

A closer look at how you can support them

 

Tips for supporting a friend with a mental illness

Someone who is experiencing mental health difficulties is usually able to live a successful and satisfying life, particularly if they are receiving help to manage the illness. However, it’s not uncommon for a stigma to be attached to someone who is having a hard time.

A person with a mental illness might feel embarrassed or like an outcast because of these harmful stigmas. Often people with mental health difficulties worry that others will tease them or treat them differently. Here are some tips for making your friend feel more comfortable:

Avoid being judgmental. Be aware of the stigma associated with mental health difficulties, but keep an open mind. This might help create a safe environment for your friend, which can allow them to relax and enjoy life.

Talk about what your friend finds helpful. Make sure that the conversations you have about your friend’s illness are easy and open. Try asking about what helps your friend get through the tough times. By talking openly, you’re letting your friend know that you love and support them.

Respect your friend’s limits. There might be times when your friend says that they aren’t able to hang out because of the illness. It’s important that you respect this and don’t put extra pressure on your friend. Often, people who are taking medication can’t drink alcohol or take drugs because it could trigger a harmful reaction. This might make certain social situations hard for your friend. If you know your friend has limitations (for whatever reason), try to be mindful of what activities you invite them to.

Encourage your friend to stick with medication. It’s likely that someone with a long-term mental illness will be on regular medication. Their medication may have side effects that your friend might not like, but medication is often an important part of managing the illness, and your friend might need your support to keep taking it.

If your friend stops using or changes the amount of medication they are taking without permission from a psychiatrist or medical doctor, encourage your friend to make an appointment quickly. Similarly, if your friend is experiencing side effects that weren’t expected and are negatively impacting them, they should contact their psychiatrist or physician immediately.

Ensure that you have contact numbers. Having the contact numbers of people like your friend’s psychiatrist or doctor could be important if you need to help your friend through a crisis, or if your friend is saying or doing things that worry you about their safety.

Getting help for your friend

For those who have a mental health issue, there might be periods of time when things aren’t manageable. Harder times can be triggered if your friend is stressed, or if they have recently experienced a traumatic event, or changed medication. These can trigger the characteristics of the mental illness, which is what most professionals call an “episode.”

If you’re concerned that your friend isn’t behaving normally, it’s important to encourage them to talk to someone trustworthy, like a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you think that your friend is likely to hurt themselves or someone else, find help immediately—even if your friend doesn’t want you to. This may even mean accompanying your friend to the nearest emergency room or going with your friend to see a counselor.

If your friend is experiencing a crisis, have them call a crisis line: Lines for Life's Suicide Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or their Youthline (1-877-968-8491). Both are anonymous, free, with staff available 24/7/365. They also offer texting and online chat options if speaking on the phone is too uncomfortable or your friend is otherwise unable to do so. It may also be helpful to talk to the person on the helpline if your friend feels talking to them is too much.

Looking after yourself

Sometimes when you help a friend, you might forget to look after yourself. It’s important to take care of your own needs while you’re helping out your friend. Make sure that you don’t give up things that you enjoy, and if you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed, take some time out and relax. You’re not your friend’s therapist, you’re just their friend. It’s okay to have boundaries with yourself.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Mental Health America, “Giving Support to Someone Close to You”


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Relationship Issues

 
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Soaring or Settling?

A closer look at examining your relationships and handling conflict

 

Figuring out what’s best for you

We have lots of different relationships in our lives with our friends, family, teachers, doctors, classmates, coworkers and romantic partner(s). Sometimes relationships work well and are easy going, and other times they can be hard and you might wonder if they’re worth it. Most relationships will have some form of conflict in them. This might make you feel like:

  • Avoiding them or taking a break from being around them

  • Breaking off your relationship

  • Putting up boundaries for yourself

  • Talking about your issues to come to a mutual understanding

Reassessing the relationship

In reassessing a relationship with another person, you might want to consider some of the following questions.

Are you getting what you want from the relationship?

If being in the relationship isn’t making you or the other person satisfied, it might be worth reconsidering how much time and energy you put into that person. You should also consider what you want from the relationship. Are they supportive of you and your endeavors? Do they make you feel validated in your experiences? Do they add value to your life, or do they add more stress?

Are you willing to compromise?

When you disagree, argue or fight with someone, you might find it hard to listen to their point of view. To maintain a relationship, you may both need to:

  • Agree to disagree

  • Walk away and take time out

  • Compromise

  • Keep talking about what is important to you, and listen to what is important to the other person

  • Respect yourself and the other person

  • Think about what is fair

  • Remember that having different opinions and ideas is ok

  • Use effective communication with each other  

Avoiding conflict is not necessarily healthy. Resolving an argument in a respectful way can be a sign of a healthy relationship.

How significant is the person to you?

If this person means a lot to you, it’s probably worth putting effort into maintaining the relationship. You might have relationships where you feel you have limited choices. These relationships may be with a teacher, employer, co-worker or family member. It’s also not uncommon to be in a relationship with someone you do not like. You might not like the person because:

  • You have a clash in personalities

  • They may have done something you don’t like

  • You don’t agree with their decisions or rules

  • They are abusive

If someone is being abusive, you might want to check out the Abusive Relationships article for more information. It’s not okay to be abusive, nor is it okay to be abused. If you are experiencing violence, you might want to talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member or counselor.

How often do you have to see the other person in the relationship?

If you are fighting with a teacher or parent, chances are you are going to have to see that person regularly. This can make it difficult to change the relationship and you might have to compromise on some things for the time being. Even if you have to see them everyday, there are still things you can do to manage.

Are you safe?

In some cases you might feel threatened in a relationship or fear for your safety. If you don’t feel safe with someone, avoid situations where you are alone with that person. Make a safety plan for yourself by:

  • Letting people know where you are and who you are with

  • Telling friends, family and people you trust about your relationship, and asking them to help protect you by being around when the abusive person is there

  • Listening to your feelings, and leaving a place as soon as you feel unsafe

  • Keeping a phone and transportation money with you when you’re away from home, or arranging for someone to pick you up

  • Having someone with you or close by when you end the relationship

  • Talking to someone about what you can do to legally protect yourself

Your local police can advise you on steps you can take to protect yourself. See the fact sheet on Staying Safe for more information. You can also contact the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) for assistance 1-800-656-4673.

Resolving problems

If you feel that a relationship is worth maintaining, you might need to be clear about what problems you are having and try to find solutions with the other person in the relationship.

Before talking to the other person you may want to:

  • Write down a list of your concerns

  • Consider talking to someone who isn’t involved in the situation—they can provide a different perspective and help you sort things out for yourself

  • Think about what you are willing to compromise

  • Think of a time and space where you can talk about your relationship calmly

It can be hard when faced with conflict in a relationship, but sometimes conflict can make a relationship stronger. You’ve tested the waters and know you can survive. Other times, it’s important to have boundaries and to be firm in knowing what and who is right for you. It’s okay if things don’t work out, because everyone one of us is walking a different path. It looks different for everyone, so just because you don’t agree with the way they’re living their life or treating people, doesn’t mean it’s for you to change them. Let them learn their own lessons, just as you will learn your own.

You have every right to live your life in a way that makes you feel loved, supported, and free. If you don’t feel like your relationship allows for that, consider how long you want to exist in that space. If you think things can change, make a plan with this person so that the conflict doesn’t have to happen again. Regardless of your choice, you and the other person both deserve happiness, either together or apart.


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

 
 

Staying Safe

 
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Assessing your safety

A closer look at keeping yourself safe

 

Steps you can take to stay safe

At times we underestimate the amount of danger we could be in either because we don’t realize we’re in danger, or we don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is. Being safe is important.

Here are actions you can take to ensure your safety:

Assess the situation. Ask yourself: How likely is it that someone could hurt me? If it’s necessary, you might have to move to a location that is safer or not take risks that you could avoid, such as walking across campus or home from a bus stop alone late at night.

Find support. Making a decision to leave a situation or relationship, where you feel unsafe might be hard and scary. If possible, talk to someone you trust, like a friend, teacher, counselor, or other mental health professional.

Talk to the police. If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police. They can also help if you or someone else has been hurt, or if someone has threatened your safety.

Believe in yourself. If someone is threatening to hurt you or harming you in any way, it can be hard to maintain your self-confidence. Remember: It’s never O.K. for someone to hurt or threaten to hurt you. You are worth far more than that.

Know your rights. It might be a good idea to check out your legal rights if you suspect someone is breaking the law. Harassment and assault laws, as well as other laws dealing with your safety, vary from state to state.

Prevent access to your internet activity. If someone is hurting you and you are searching for help on the internet, you may not want that person to have access to this information. Remember to turn your browsing history off or to delete it after the fact, if you feel you have to.

Generally, it’s good to be cautious about your safety when using the internet. With so many forms of personal information on the internet, you have to be careful. The Nemours Foundation and WebMD offer several suggestions for internet safety.

Stop and think about the consequences of taking unnecessary risks

Some things that jeopardize your safety are things you can control, which is great! That means you can be proactive at ensuring you’re safe. Some of those things might be:

  • Making good decisions about drinking and not driving

  • Knowing your limits when drinking alcohol

  • Not going home with someone you don’t really know

  • Not having unprotected sex

  • Watching your drink at a party (See Date Rape Drugs for more information)

  • Driving yourself to a party, so you can leave if things feel unsafe

  • Being aware of your surroundings

  • Not picking up hitchhikers

  • Listening to your gut or intuition

It’s particularly tempting when you first get out on your own and are not under your family’s eye to experiment and try things that you might not have tried before. That’s natural, but you can still be independent without making unsafe choices. Our Risk-Taking article offers more on this topic.

Consider a safety plan

It might be necessary to have a safety plan in place before you leave the situation where you feel unsafe. Consider these points before making your safety plan:

Have somewhere safe to go. If you can’t think of anywhere to stay, you might want to contact a shelter.

Tell someone. If possible, tell your friends and family members to see if they can help protect and support you. You might also want to talk to someone who’s removed from the situation, like a counselor, social worker, or one of the trained volunteers at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, or RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673 or Lines for Life’s Suicide LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255. Even if you’re not suicidal, they’ll still talk to you and give you support regardless of what you’re going through. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

Have cash on hand. If you can, save some money so you can leave a situation you don’t feel safe in. In these situations, you might need to pay for transportation or temporary housing, so having cash on hand can make this easier.

Minimize your time alone. Remember: There’s safety in numbers. Try and be around other people whenever possible.

After you feel safe

Once the crisis has passed, it’s usually easier to work out what to do in the future should you find yourself in the situation again. If someone close to you is putting you in danger, it might be necessary to end your relationship with the person, which could include moving. This will probably be a hard step to take, so have as much support as possible.

If you’re concerned for your safety in the future it might be necessary to talk to the police, change your phone number or screen your calls through an answering machine. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides important advice about protecting your identity after moving to a new location. You might want to check out the website even if you are not worried about a specific person, as it contains useful tips for anyone to protect themselves.

Remember: There are many people and services that can help. Just talking to someone you trust about your concerns can help you see your options more clearly.

 

Additional resources, and information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Worried About Someone Feeling Depressed

 
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Worried your friend is depressed?

A closer look at what depression is and how you can support your friend (and yourself)

 

Depression affects thousands of people everyday. According to a 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 13.3% or 3.2 million adolescents from ages 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode. Regarding adults, those aged 18 to 25 hold the highest prevalence of major depressive episodes, sitting at 13.1%. When a friend is feeling down for a long period of time or is behaving in an unusual way, it can be hard to know what you can do for them.

If your friend has mentioned suicide, it’s important you tell someone who can help so that your friend can remain safe. Check out the When a Friend Is Thinking of Suicide article for more info.

Suggestions for helping

Like other illnesses, everyone’s experience of depression is different. It’s important to remember that helping someone who is not ready to recognize they need help may be difficult, and the decision and responsibility for them to get help is ultimately theirs. However, there are some things you can do that may help you to help your friend who is feeling depressed:

Offer your support. It can be scary when someone realizes they need help. Let your friend know you’re worried about them, and that you’re there to listen without judging them.

If your friend talks to you about how they’re feeling, it might help if you acknowledge that they’re sad and that things might seem hard, while at the same time try and remain positive and encouraging.

If you are having difficulty speaking about it with your friend, you might start with sentences such as ”I’ve noticed you’ve seemed a bit down,” or “Lately, I’ve noticed you haven’t been interested in hanging out with your friends or enjoying things like you used to. What’s going on?” This can invite them to share their feelings with you.

Choosing when to talk. Timing can be an important part of talking to someone about sensitive stuff. If possible, try to choose a time when you are both open to talking about serious subjects. Avoid talking with them during an argument or if they are upset—you may end up getting a bad reaction where they choose to distance and isolate themselves further.

Don’t ask them to cheer up or forget about it. When people are sad, our first reaction may be to tell them to cheer up or forget about it because everything will be fine. If someone is depressed, this may be impossible.

Asking someone to cheer up may appear as if you are not taking their feelings seriously and have a negative effect. It’s important to know that depression isn’t something someone can just snap out of. It is serious and takes a toll on the person physically, mentally and emotionally.

Get informed. Finding out more about depression might help you better understand the reasons for the reactions you might receive and what your friend might be going through. Check out our article on Depression for more information.

Encourage them to get professional support

If your friend is depressed, it is important that they seek help. Your local doctor is a good first step. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, and social workers, are trained in assisting young people with mental health difficulties and could also be helpful.

If you feel comfortable doing so, you might offer to go with your friend when they speak to someone about how they are feeling. Even walking with them to the school counselors office might be the support they need.

Give it time. It might take time for your friend to accept help, either from you or someone else, and that’s okay. They are walking their own path and will come to terms that they need help in their own time. It might also take some time to find a treatment that works best for them.

Take care of yourself

When you are worried about a friend you might feel stressed or overwhelmed and forget to look after yourself. It is important that you take care of how you are feeling. Speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or counselor. Having time away from your friend can be an important way to help you relax. Make sure you spend some time doing what you enjoy. You may want to play a sport, hang out with other friends, listen to music, or go for a walk.

You are not responsible for your friend

It’s also important to remember that even though you can offer support, you are not responsible for the actions or behaviors of your friend. If they aren’t willing to help themselves, it is NOT your fault. There is only so much you can do for a person. The real work has to be done by them.

Concerned your friend might be suicidal?

If you are concerned that your friend is suicidal, your first action should be to ask the question outright. If you think they’re suicidal, ask them “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” This tactic cuts right to the chase to know if this person is at risk or not.

If they would like to talk to someone outside of their situation, Lines for Life has a Suicide LifeLine that can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, as well as a YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491. They are staffed by highly trained volunteers that can offer support and assistance to you or your friend. They are available 24/7/365 and ready to help. If you’d like more resources for your friend, check out our crisis helpline directory. If you’re looking for more information on signs that your friend may be suicidal, check out our article on Suicide Warning Signs or nineoutoften.org.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Intimate Partner Violence

 
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Intimate Partner Violence and Domestic Violence

A closer look at how to recognize intimate partner violence and what to do if you’re in an abusive relationship

 

What is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse that takes place between two people who have a romantic relationship—spouses, partners, boyfriends and girlfriends. Many people also use the word “domestic violence.” IPV can occur in many forms and can affect people of any age. If someone is hurting you, it can be frightening, and you might not know how to make the abuse stop—especially if you live with the person who is abusing you. It’s important to remember that no one has the right to be violent toward you and there are people who can help you.

IPV can take on many forms, including:

Physical/Sexual. Forms of physical violence include pushing, shaking, punching, slapping, forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, throwing things at you, using weapons, damaging your property, or hurting or killing your pets. If someone is being physically violent to you, seek safety as soon as possible. Leave the situation as quickly and safely as possible, and call 911 or your local police.

Emotional/Verbal. This form of violence is often unrecognized as IPV, but it can be just as hurtful and damaging as physical violence. If someone is making threats, texting or speaking to you in a way that is frightening, putting you down, or using blackmail against you, he or she is being emotionally violent. Emotional violence also includes insulting you or teasing you in front of other people, keeping you isolated from family and friends, preventing you from having your own opinions and controlling what you do and where you go.

Economic. Having money—and making decisions about how to use it—is one form of independence. If someone is controlling your money, keeping you financially dependent, or forcing you to ask for money unreasonably, this is another form of IPV.

According to the CDC, 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 18.”

You might assume that IPV only happens between adults or in relationships where two people are living together. But this isn’t the case. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely to report violence in their romantic relationships than any other age group. According to a recent national survey, 8% of high school students reported physical violence and 7% reported that they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner within the last year.

How can I keep myself safe?

At times you might underestimate the amount of danger you’re in, either because you might not realize it or don’t want to accept how dangerous a situation is because you think that your partner really loves and cares for you. Your partner might promise to “never do it again”, you might feel like you are to blame for their behavior, or perhaps you think you can change your partner. But you are not responsible for your partner’s action—ever—and there are actions you can take to ensure that he or she does not hurt you anymore.

Steps to ensuring your safety:

  • Call the police. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police.

  • Leave. It can be incredibly hard to end a relationship, especially if you’re sharing a home with the person who’s hurting you. Because the person who is abusing you might be manipulating you or isolating you from your friends and family, you might feel like you can’t leave, or that you have nowhere to go. But there is support for you when you feel like you should leave a place where you feel threatened or unsafe. If you need to leave, make sure to take important items, like your IDs, credit cards, cash and cell phone.

  • Get support. Making a decision to leave an unsafe relationship can be difficult. You don’t have to do it alone. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, counselor or social worker. You might also want to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453. Hotline volunteers can direct you to local resources and shelters in your area where you can find additional help and support. Our crisis helpline directory also offer links to other services and resources in your country in Oregon, as well as national helplines.

IPV is just one form of violence. Abuse can come from adults, strangers, or your peers at school. You have the right to feel and be safe. For more information on steps you can take to ensure your safety, check out the following articles:

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Helping a Friend in a Sexually Abusive Relationship

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Is your friend in an abusive relationship?

A closer look at how you can support them

It is usually difficult to know if a friend is in a sexually abusive relationship. That being said, there are some warning signs that you might notice, especially in their behavior. These can also be true if your friend is in an emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive relationship.

What to look for:

  • Your friend is losing interest in activities he or she used to enjoy

  • Your friend is overly worried about what his or her boyfriend or girlfriend thinks

  • They’re acting overly happy or seem to be worried and anxious when with their partner

  • If someone calls your friend’s partner out on something negative, your friend makes excuses for their partner all the time

  • They avoid friends and social activities that do not include their partner

  • Your friend jokes about their partner’s violent outbursts

  • Your friend has unexplained injuries and the explanations seem odd or unlikely

  • Your friend’s behavior has changed dramatically since they started dating this current partner

How you can help

If you do suspect that your friend is being abused by their partner, there are some ways you can help, but it is always important to remember that if you believe that you or your friend are in some immediate danger, you need to go to the police.

Encourage your friend to talk. Try to get your friend to do most of the talking. Here are some open-ended questions you can ask your friend:

  • How are you feeling about your relationship?

  • What do your friends and family think about your relationship?

  • Do you have plans for the future of your relationship?

Try to talk when you’re alone with your friend, not in front of other friends or family members, especially their partner. Sometimes it can be easier to talk if you’re also focused on another activity like going for a drive, making a meal or doing the dishes. You should talk to your friend or seek help from an outside source, but do not confront your friend’s partner. This could make the situation worse and you could even be putting yourself in an unsafe position. You will also want to suggest that your friend not talk to their partner about your conversation.

Listen to your friend. Don’t be judgmental. If your friend is in an abusive relationship, they probably already feel down. Don’t make your friend feel worse.

Don’t blame your friend for what’s happening. Don’t tell your friend what they should have done differently. Concentrate on what makes them happy and how your friend can take action to change things now.

Don’t tell your friend what to do. Instead, encourage your friend to think about options. You might ask your friend if he or she has already tried getting help, or you might suggest places to seek help.

Be specific about why you’re concerned. For example, say things like, “I feel bad when he says you’re stupid” or “We hate to see you nervous and unhappy.”

Make sure your friend knows they have your support. Your friend might be feeling very isolated and alone. Let your friend know that you are there for them, and that they have already begun seeking help by talking to you. Make sure your friend knows you are willing to support them in any way that will help.

Help your friend work out some realistic strategies. What works in this situation will depend on how willing your friend is to see that there is a problem.

Your friend has to find their own way through the situation, but talking to you or a trusted person can help. If your friend does not want to talk to you about it, you might just suggest that your friend call a helpline (like one of the ones listed below), where they can get help without bringing anyone personal into the situation. Encouraging your friend to realize their strengths as an individual can be the best protection you can give, and the best way to ensure that your friend does not become a victim of abuse again.

Where to get help

Finding the courage and the appropriate way to talk about these issues with your friend is important. If you need advice or information for how to do this, there are lots of services and support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship or has been sexually assaulted. Though you should not feel personally responsible for a friend’s situation, you can always choose to help.

You can call:

For more information, you can check out our articles on Abusive Relationships and Sexual Violence. Kids Health may also have useful information on sexual abuse.


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Peer Pressure

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Peer Pressure

A closer look at how you might be affected by peer pressure and ways to avoid succumbing to it

What is peer pressure?

Peer pressure is the influence you feel from a person or group of people to do something you might not otherwise consider doing.

It’s not uncommon to want to be part of a group and feel like you belong in a community, especially if you are new or less experienced than the people around you.

Peer pressure often happens because you don’t want to be alone or left out. So you go with what other people think in order for them to include you. A peer can be anyone around the same age as you, like a friend, classmate, or even someone you’ve seen on TV and admire. You might try to live up to people’s expectations, but it’s important to be mindful to not have other people’s expectations cloud what you want.

If you’re dealing with peer pressure, you’re not alone.

How does peer pressure affect us?

Peer pressure isn’t always a negative thing. It can be a positive influence and help challenge or motivate you to do your best. However, it’s helpful to recognize that peer pressure can also be negative. It can result in you doing something that doesn’t fit with your sense of right and wrong.

Peer pressure might influence you in a number of ways, including:

  • Fashion choices

  • Alcohol and drug use

  • Decision to have a romantic partner

  • Choice of who your friends are

  • Academic performance

Where does peer pressure come from?

Peer pressure can be present at school or within a broader community. It can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Peer pressure can affect you in a number of different ways:

  • Directly. Peer pressure can be as simple and direct as someone telling you what to do. It might be a good idea to talk to someone you trust if you feel threatened, or if you are being hurt or pressured into something you don’t want to do. You could talk to a family member, friend, teacher or counselor.

  • Indirectly. Peer pressure might not always be obvious to you. It’s not uncommon for a group of friends to have particular habits or activities that they do together. But when you’re with a different group of friends, it might be unlikely that you do those same things. For example, you might only smoke when you are with certain friends, or you might be more likely to study when you are with other friends.

  • Individually. Sometimes the pressure comes from you. Feeling different from a group can be hard. Sometimes this happens when people move to a new city or start a new school or job. This often means having to make new friends and fit into a new environment. To avoid feeling out of place, you might do things to make sure you feel like the rest of the group. When people feel unsure about themselves, they might be more likely to feel the effects of peer pressure.

What can you do about peer pressure?

Being an individual means making decisions based on what is best for you. It means taking ownership and responsibility for what you do and how you think. But being an individual also means that you can be a valued part of a comfortable and welcoming group. It might be hard to resist peer pressure and stay an individual. Here are some suggestions that can help you manage peer pressure better.

Value common interests. Hanging out with people who like doing similar stuff may help you avoid a situation where you feel pressured into things you don’t want to do. Remember that being seen hanging out in the “cool crowd” might not be as much fun as it looks if you’re not comfortable with the decisions that crowd is making.

Say no. Having the strength to say no can be hard, but it can also make you feel good to stick with what you believe in. Explain to people in a calm way why you don’t want to be part of something, and you might earn respect from others and gain confidence in yourself.

Try not to judge others. If possible, try not to place judgments on other people’s choices. Respecting someone else’s choice may help them to respect yours. Remember that you don’t have to agree with their actions. Focusing on the reasons why you don’t feel happy with the choice might help you to not judge them.

Take action. Taking action against negative peer pressure can be easier when you’re more comfortable in your environment. Standing up for yourself and others can be a way to gain that comfort. Both of these are ways in which you might be able to create a positive atmosphere within a group.


Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com

Effective Communication

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Getting the message across

A closer look at different communication styles and how to start effectively communication today

The way you communicate has a big impact on your ability to get along with people and getting the things that you want. Good communication skills can help you avoid conflict and to solve problems. Open and honest communication is also important for making friends and having healthy relationships.

Styles of communication

Communication can be expressed in many ways and with different results.  Communication can be aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive or assertive. Poor communication often creates tension and bad feelings within relationships.

Aggressive communication is expressed in a forceful and hostile manner, and usually involves alienating messages such as “you-statements”. You-statements blame the other person, accuse them of being wrong or at fault, and can also be labeling (like calling them a name).

A person’s tone of voice and facial expressions can also project unfriendliness. Aggressive communication can send the message “your needs don’t matter,” or “I win, and you lose.” By sending this message, you quickly cut off lines for open communication. When someone speaks to you this way, how does it make you feel? Do you think this is a productive way at reaching your goals?

Passive communication involves putting your needs last. When you communicate passively, you don’t express your thoughts or feelings or ask for what you want. When you use passive communication, it feels like others are walking all over you because you don’t assert your own needs. As a result, you might bottle things up and might feel resentful. Passive communication can send the message ”my needs don’t matter,” or “you win, and I lose.” When this message is received by others, those with bad intentions could see this as a way to keep you under their control or to repeatedly take advantage of you. Have you seen this in others before, or perhaps yourself? What kind of message do you think this communication style brings?

Passive-aggressive communication is when you don’t clearly state your needs or feelings, instead using indirectly aggressive communication, such as making snide remarks, being stubborn, or sulking and withdrawing from the conversation. This style of communication looks passive on the outside, but beneath the surface, this person is acting out their aggression in a subtle or indirect way.

Those with this communication style may often feel powerless and resentful, denying there’s a problem and using sarcasm to deal with others. Essentially, this person is communicating, “I’ll seem cooperative, but I’m not going to be” or “I feel powerless to tell you how I really feel, so I’ll frustrate you instead”. What does it feel like when people aren’t upfront about their feelings with you? Can you imagine it being easy or hard to connect with someone that communicated like this?

Assertive communication involves clearly expressing what you think, how you feel and what you want, without demanding that you must have things your way. The basic underlying assumption is ”we both matter, so let’s try to work this out”. It’s seeing everyone involved in the conversation as a part of the group effort in making things work as smoothly as possible.

Assertive communication increases your likelihood of getting what you want, avoiding conflict and maintaining good relationships. Everyone can win in these situations.

When you are assertive you can:

  • Express your own thoughts, feelings and needs

  • Make reasonable requests of other people, while accepting his or her right to say ”no”

  • Stand up for your own rights

  • Say “no” to requests from others when you want to, without feeling guilty

Take this example…

Tom is feeling angry. He’s supposed to get his driver’s license next week, and for the past month his dad has been promising to take him out driving, but it never seemed to happen. Tom feels frustrated because he needs the practice before he goes for the test.

On Thursday, Tom came home from school and asked his dad if they could go for a drive. His dad said he couldn’t because he had some work to do.

Finally at his breaking point, Tom exploded. “You don’t give a damn about me. You are such a liar! You never do what you say you’re going to do,” he yelled.

In return his dad got all fired up and called Tom a spoiled brat who doesn’t think about anyone but himself. Both Tom and his dad were angry at each other after this argument.

This is a good example of how poor communication can lead to conflict and hurt feelings. Let’s have a closer look at some of the errors that led to this angry outburst.

Error 1: Making assumptions

Tom expected his dad to know what he was thinking and feeling, without clearly telling him. Until the time of the argument, his dad had no idea how important it was to Tom to get the extra driving practice. He thought that Tom felt confident about the test and assumed he just wanted to go for a drive for fun, which they could do anytime.

Tom, on the other hand, had assumed that his father knew how important it was for him to get some more practice even though he never told him, and therefore interpreted his dad’s attitude as not caring.

Assumptions occur in most relationships and people get upset because of these misunderstandings. Often we expect people to know what we are thinking—we believe that they should be able to understand where we are coming from, even though we haven’t expressed it clearly. No one is a mind reader, so it’s important to give people a clear picture of where you’re coming from and how you two can work together to make things easier.

An important aspect of good communication is to tell others what we’re thinking and what we want or need, and also to not assume that they already know.

In Tom’s case, the situation could have turned out better if he had communicated more clearly in the first place, by saying something like “Dad, I’ve got my driver’s license test on Tuesday, and I’m feeling nervous about it. Do you have some time this week to take me out on a few drives? What days would work for you?”

By clearly communicating that going for a drive is very important to him, Tom gives his dad a better understanding of where he’s coming from and how he is feeling. By scheduling a specific time, it strengthens the commitment and makes it easier for both of them to plan ahead.

Error 2: Avoiding communication

Tom didn’t say anything until he was very angry. Each time his dad cancelled the planned drive, Tom said nothing. Over time, Tom stewed about it more and more, and finally he exploded. This type of situation is like a pot boiling on the stove—if you don’t let off a little steam as time passes, eventually the pressure builds up and it boils over. Whenever we’re feeling upset, it’s better to talk about it as soon as possible, rather than letting things build up. If we say nothing, we won’t get what we want and our frustration grows.

Communication problems often arise because we don’t say how we feel, what we think or what we want. People often avoid communicating because they are embarrassed or concerned about upsetting the other person. Sometimes we just assume that others should know what we think. The problem is that when you don’t say what you need to say, it increases the likelihood of feeling angry, resentful and frustrated. This may lead to tension or angry outbursts.

Error 3: Labeling

Tom and his dad also used labels to criticize each other. Labels such as “liar” or “spoiled brat” can be offensive. When we label another person, it can feel like we are attacking them, and that person’s first reaction is usually to attack back.

Attacks lead to heated arguments and conflict. Labels are an example of alienating messages (see Error 4 below), because they criticize the person rather than the behavior. It is OK to criticize someone’s behavior (for example,“I think what you did was unfair”), but labeling the whole person (”You are unfair”) is unreasonable and creates bad feelings between people.

Error 4: Alienating messages

When we use criticism, put-downs or aggressive communication, no one wins, and everyone feels bad in the end. Alienating messages make the other person feel threatened or under attack, and usually this person will respond by attacking back. This type of communication very often leads to angry confrontations or a “cold war,” where we stop speaking to the other person, or use minimal communication.

Some examples of alienating messages include:

  • You-statements. We blame the other person and accuse him or her of being wrong or at fault. In Tom’s case, the you-statement was: “You don’t give a damn about me!”

  • Sarcasm. Sarcastic statements are negative or hurtful phrases that you don’t really mean, and are used to put another person down in a more passive-aggressive way. An example of a sarcastic statements include “Well, we can’t all be perfect like you.”

  • Negative comparisons. Negative comparisons are statements that you use when you compare a person to someone else, and in the process, you put them down for not be ‘as good’ as the other person. For example, “Why can’t you get A’s like your sister?” is a negative comparison.

  • Threats. These statements can include giving another person an ultimatum, for example, “If you don’t do what I want, then I’m going to…”

The communication problems between Tom and his father are very common ones. Perhaps you can think of some examples in your own experience, where you or someone you know has used poor communication, such as assumptions, avoidance, or alienating messages. It’s always useful to be aware of your communication so that you can avoid making these types of errors.

Getting your message across isn’t always easy. Good communication skills can help you avoid conflict and solve problems.

Whole messages

One of the most effective ways of communicating is to use whole messages. This is especially useful when you need to bring up an issue that’s difficult to talk about or makes you feel uncomfortable. A whole message involves expressing how you think and feel, while at the same time stating what you want.

Whole messages consist of four parts:

1. Observations

Describe what happened. Try to be factual and accurate, while not making assumptions.

For example, “When Mike came over the other day, you didn’t stop and talk to him.”

2. Thoughts

State your beliefs, opinions or interpretation of what happened in your observation.

For example, “I thought it seemed rude, like you don’t like him.”

3. Feelings

Say how you feel about the situation.

For example, “When you did that, it made me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.”

4. Wants

Talk about what you would like to happen in the situation.

For example, “The next time he comes over, I’d like it if you could say “hi” and to make an effort to talk to him. Could you do that for me, please?”

Learning to communicate effectively takes a bit of practice. Can you think of a situation that you’ve experienced where you needed to communicate with someone about a concern? Perhaps you even have an issue that you need to resolve at the moment. Think about it. Then take these steps:

1. Describe the situation, and who you need to communicate with.

2. Write the whole message, including observations, thoughts, feelings and wants.

TIP: If you find it difficult to say it directly to the person, write down your whole message on paper first. This can help you to clarify what you want to say and how you can say it. Just remember that even if you stumble upon your words, don’t stop mid-way. Don’t be afraid to talk things out. Let your voice be heard.

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr. Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond, Foundation for Life Sciences

Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Breaking Up

Getting through a break up

Breaking up is never easy. Below are some tips for getting through it.

Breaking up with someone

Over time, you and your partner’s interests might change. You can grow apart or have less in common with the person you’re dating, and it might be time for you to think about ending the relationship.

If you decide to end a relationship, it can be difficult for both people, and respecting one another will make things easier. Once you decide to end the relationship, it’s a good idea to be honest, kind and definite.

You might want to tell the other person what you’ve been feeling and thinking, and what you want for yourself. It’s not helpful to blame the other person or try to pick out faults. Sometimes relationships end simply because people are different, and getting to know someone during a relationship can reveal differences that you didn’t see before. Differences are natural, but they might prevent you from keeping your relationship happy, healthy and strong.

Not sure whether to break up?

It can be hard to tell when exactly a relationship should ‘end’, as often there’s no exact point. Listen to your gut when feeling out these changes you have for your partner. If you’re in a long-term relationship, remember that the ‘honeymoon stage’ only lasts so long, and after that, it’s about genuine love and connection with that person.  Healthy relationships involve trust, support and respect. If those are absent, you might consider whether that relationship is good for you long-term.

How do I break up with someone?

Breaking up with someone can feel daunting, especially because you don’t want to hurt them. Try to pick a good time to break the news to someone, where they’ll be able to react naturally, express how they’re feeling and not get rushed. Often it takes some time for the news to sink in, especially if it’s a surprise. People might react to a break up differently. It’s not uncommon to feel sadness, anger, disbelief, guilt or even indifference. If you’ve been experiencing difficulties in your relationship for some time, your partner might even seem relieved.

Managing these feelings can be hard. Try to be calm, kind and gentle when you’re ending a relationship but also be firm and clear. Think about how you’d want someone to talk to you about ending your relationship. It’s best to wait until you can see that person face-to-face, so you can discuss things more thoroughly. Breaking up over a text message or phone call can come across as inconsiderate or disrespectful of the time you’ve shared together, but if your safety is at risk, this may be your best option.

Getting over an ex and moving on after a break up

If you’re being broken up with, the uncertainty and devastation from the ending of the relationship can be overwhelming. Breaking up is hard, but try to remember the reasons why you or your partner made that decision and that it’s the best thing for two people when they can’t grow anymore in that relationship. It is not unusual to go through the different stages of grief after a big relationship in your life has ended.

It might take some time to accept that your relationship has ended and to move on from the relationship. The end of a relationship can give you time to learn more about yourself, spend time with your friends and do things that you enjoy doing. Having someone you can talk to about your feelings might be helpful. This can be a friend, family member or counselor or other mental health professional.

You may also find it helpful to:

Stay busy. Staying active and doing things you enjoy might help keep your mind off the break up. You might want to hang out with friends, read a book, go for a run or walk or listen to music.

Try something new. Sometimes it’s helpful to make a fresh start by trying something different. There might be a class you’ve always wanted to take—like drama, art or yoga—or you might want to start playing sport.

Look after yourself. This might be a difficult time, and it’s important that you look after yourself. Eating a healthy diet and staying physically active can be helpful. It might also help to treat yourself to something special. Do something that you enjoy.

Try to stay positive. Think about your achievements, your friends, things you enjoy and the good people in your life, and the positive things they have said about you. Try thinking of potential doors that have opened since the closing of your relationship. Do things that help you feel empowered as an independent person. This can help keep you feeling upbeat.

Talk with someone you trust. Getting some support when a relationship is ending might help you work through how you’re feeling. You might find it helpful to talk to your friends, your parents, a teacher, school counselor, doctor or another person that you can trust.

It’s OK to be single. We promise- it can even be fun. Just give yourself time. Learn how to become your own biggest support and best friend, because whether or not you’re in a relationship, you’ll always have yourself. Use this time to explore who you really are.

Need more info?

Acknowledgements: This article was originally developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com


Abusive Relationships

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Abusive Relationships

A closer look at abusive relationships, how to identify if you or someone you love is in one, and where to get help

When you’re in a healthy relationship, both individuals support each other by sharing the good times and helping each other through the tough ones. When someone matters deeply to you, and those feelings of trust and respect are returned, it enables you to face the world with confidence.

Building and maintaining a healthy relationship takes a commitment from both sides. But it’s worth it, because in a good relationship, you feel good about your boyfriend or girlfriend and good about yourself.

Not all relationships work out, no matter how much we might want them to. When a relationship becomes violent or destructive, it can be both physically and emotionally dangerous for the people involved.

Key signs of an abusive relationship

While everyone’s experience of an unhealthy or abusive relationship will be different, there are some common patterns of controlling behavior and abuse that can surface before the relationship becomes physically violent. These include:

Possessiveness. This could mean that your partner is checking on you all the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re with; or trying to control where you can go and who you can see.

Jealousy. This includes accusing you—without good reason—of being unfaithful or flirting, or isolating you from your family and friends, often by exhibiting rude behavior.

Put-downs. These can happen either privately or publicly by attacking how smart you are, your looks or capabilities. In an abusive situation, your boyfriend or girlfriend might also constantly compare you unfavorably to other people, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.

Gaslighting. This is a common tactic used by abusers to manipulate you and to make you question your reality. They are confident liars and slowly start showing this side of themselves to you, isolating you from loved ones and tearing into your sense of identity and all you care about. If you’ve ever been made to feel like you were losing your mind, it’s likely you were with a gaslighter.

Threats. An abuser might use threats against you, for example, that he or she will use violence against you, your family or friends, or even a pet. He or she might tell you that no one else will ever want to date you. Yelling, sulking, and breaking things are also signs of abuse.

What to do if you are being abused

It’s not OK to be physically threatened or scared into things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy just because you are in a relationship.

It’s not OK to be put down and pushed around—shoved, hit, slapped, kicked or punched. No one deserves to be treated this way. No one should use violence—or the threat of violence—to make you do what you don’t want to do.

It’s not OK for someone to use the excuse that they are tired, stressed, overworked or under financial pressure as a reason for their violent behavior.

If you’re living with your boyfriend or girlfriend and are feeling unsafe, find other accommodations with friends or family, or if that’s not possible, an emergency shelter.

Breaking the cycle of violence

A violent relationship may not be violent all the time. Sometimes, violent people treat their boyfriends or girlfriends very well. They can be loving and sorry for their violent behavior. This can make it hard to see what’s really happening. There is a strong chance that the violence will get worse, and the relationship more abusive over time.

After a violent event, it’s common for both of you to try and make things better by making excuses, apologizing, or promising to change. But there is no excuse for this behavior, and just saying sorry is not good enough. Sometimes the violent person will blame the victim by saying things like “it wouldn’t happen if you did what I said.” Things might settle down for a while, but usually it’s only a matter of time before the build-up to violence starts again.

If you’re experiencing violence in a relationship, things can feel very confusing, especially if it’s your first relationship. You might try to make excuses, think of the violence as a one-time incident, or blame the abuse on the fact that the abuser was drunk or stressed. You might not be sure what behavior to expect from him or her. It’s possible to begin thinking that the violence is your fault, or perhaps you start to try to fit in with whatever the abuser wants, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You could also be feeling scared that he or she will hurt you if you try to leave.

Ending any kind of relationship is hard to do, but it can be particularly difficult to leave a violent relationship. When you’re frightened and your self-esteem is low, it can be hard to find the strength to leave or break-up. Sometimes it’s easier to hope that things will change for the better, but too often they don’t.

The first step in changing things is to understand that what’s been happening to you is wrong. Even if your boyfriend or girlfriend says they care about you, it’s not OK to be treated like this and you deserve better.

Where to get help

Listen to your feelings and trust them. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Talk to someone who cares about you. Talk to your mom or dad, a family member, a friend or someone in your community like your doctor, your teacher or your local religious leader. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not responsible for somebody else’s violent behavior. Your first responsibility is to yourself. To develop a safe plan to leave, check out loveisrespect.org’s comprehensive safety planning guide. The sources listed below can also help you get safe.

Helplines

Many free helplines are available if you think you’re being abused, or are worried for a friend you suspect could be being abused. Check out our Crisis Helpline article to find crisis helplines and services offered both nationally and within the state of Oregon.

Some national helplines you can reach out to:

Both hotlines are confidential and staffed 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who are ready to talk to you about whatever you’re feeling.

 

State resources

You can also reach out to an abuse coalition in your state, which can help connect you to more local resources. Check out the Domestic Violence Coalitions website for more information on state coalitions.

Womenslaw.org has information regarding legal matters and abuse per state that might be helpful looking at before leaving the abusive relationship.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com