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

 
 

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


Living with Someone Experiencing Depression

 
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Are you living with someone that’s depressed?

Let’s take a closer look at how to take care of yourself while trying to be understanding of their situation

 

Living with someone who is experiencing depression is not easy. When they are struggling, it can often be hard to know what to do or say, and it’s not uncommon to feel angry, guilty or overwhelmed from time to time.

Learn about depression

By having an idea of how someone is affected by depression, you might be able to better recognize why they behave the way they do. Understanding more about depression might also help you separate the illness from your family member, partner or friend, and realize that their mood and behavior might not be directed at you personally.

Everyone is affected by their depression a little bit differently. Sometimes it can be physically draining to move much, so the house might not get picked up as often as it normally would. Perhaps being around people is exhausting, so they might need more time alone than usual.

Try not to blame them or shame them for what they’re experiencing, as it’s not something they can control. Just try to be as compassionate as you can for their experience, while also taking care of yourself.

Put yourself first occasionally

As a family member or friend of someone who’s going through depression, it’s important that you look after yourself. This can be hard and you might find that you feel guilty when you do something for yourself, but taking time out for yourself is an important part of taking care of yourself and your loved one.

Having time away from your friend or family member can be important and allow you to relax. Try to spend some time doing what you enjoy. You might want to play a sport, hang out with friends, listen to music or go for a walk. Our Developing Coping Strategies can give you some ideas on what self-care might be best for you.

It may also be helpful to write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal, since you likely won’t be able to express those properly with the person who is depressed. Remember that your mental health is also important, and you’re allowed to set boundaries for yourself.

Talk about what your loved one finds helpful

Make conversations about depression easy and open. Try asking what helps them get through their depression. By talking openly, you are letting the person know that you love and support them. You may like to talk about what you have read about depression, and ask how they feel about it.

Find a support group

If you are living or caring for someone who is experiencing depression, you may sometimes feel you are alone. Friends may not understand what you’re dealing with. Talking to people who are in a similar situation may be helpful. The National Alliance on Mental Illness might be a good place to find some support. You can also call Lines for Life’s YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491 or their Suicide LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255 for more information on how to talk to your loved one about depression or if you suspect they’re feeling suicidal.

Talk to someone

It might be helpful to talk to someone you trust, like another friend or family member, about how you’re feeling regarding your loved one’s depression. If you feel like you are having trouble doing day to day activities or the stress of caretaking for this depressed person is too much, you could also consider seeing a counselor or therapist.

 

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

Worried Someone Has an Eating Disorder

 
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Thinking your friend may have an eating disorder?

Here we’ll take a closer look at what an eating disorder is and how you can offer support to your friend

 

What is an eating disorder?

The term eating disorder is used to describe a group of illnesses where a person has a distorted view of body shape and weight and extreme disturbances in eating behavior. A few common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.

Helping someone you think has an eating disorder

Helping someone who is not ready to change their behavior may be difficult and it is ultimately their decision to get help. If eating disorders go undetected or undiagnosed, they could become physically and emotionally damaging, and even life-threatening.

If you are worried about someone who may be struggling with an eating disorder, it may be a good idea to talk with the person you are concerned about. Letting them know that you are open to listening to them, without being judgmental, may help to make them more open to discussing what is going on. If you approach the person you are concerned about, it may be helpful to remember that you are talking to them as a friend and not a therapist. Some other things you may want to consider include:

Finding an appropriate time to talk. Timing can be an important part of talking to someone about sensitive issues. If possible, try to choose a time when you feel relaxed and your friend feels relaxed. Try to avoid talking with them during a time where they may be on the defensive or threatened. Otherwise, you may end up getting a bad reaction and creating distance between the two of you.

Be informed. It is a good idea to have general knowledge about some of the characteristics of eating disorders. By doing your research, you may be better equipped to understand the reasons for the reactions you may receive. For example, denial that they have an eating disorder and a belief that they are fat are two characteristics of eating disorders. Therefore, it is normal for those who are experiencing an eating disorder to become angry and not want to talk or listen to you. Being informed may help you to handle their reactions better. Knowing more about eating disorders may also insure that you are seeing the right ‘signs’ of an eating disorder before you talk to your friends. The related articles found at the bottom of this page are another way to get more information.

Offer your support. It can be scary when you realize you need help for an eating disorder. Knowing you have a friend you can trust can always be helpful. Let the person know that you are concerned about their health and when they are ready to get help, you can help them find someone to talk to. Also let them know that you could accompany them to discuss the situation with a counselor, psychologist or doctor.

Remember that your friend might be guarded or defensive when you first bring this up to them. It’s normal for people with eating disorders to have trouble admitting to others—and themselves—that they might have a problem.

If the problem persists even after your speak with your friend, you might want to consider talking about it with someone you trust like a family member, your friend’s family, a teacher or a counselor. You might feel anxious about telling others at first, but remember that you’re not betraying your friend’s trust—you’re only helping them. You can also call the Boys Town (for everyone) National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or Lines for Life’s YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491 to speak with someone who is available to listen to your concerns 24/7.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


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

Interpersonal Violence

 
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Interpersonal Violence

A closer look at what it is, how that can look, and how to get help

 

What is interpersonal violence?

Interpersonal violence occurs when one person uses power and control over another through physical, sexual, or emotional threats or actions, economic control, isolation, or other kinds of coercive behavior. Some different types of interpersonal violence include:

  • Abuse is any behavior toward another person that is physically violent or involves emotional coercion, or both and one person is in a position of authority.

  • Bullying which is a type of harassment that can be verbal, physical, or online. It can also take the form of coercion where someone is threatened by another person and as a result of those threats, the person being bullied feels intimidated and pressured into acting a certain way or doing a certain thing. This is called peer pressure. Bullying can occur in all settings—school, work, home, neighborhood and the internet.

  • Intimate Partner Violence occurs when one intimate or romantic partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through words and actions that are physically and emotionally abusive. Dating violence can take many forms including physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse. It occurs in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and can be instigated by either males or females. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced some form of severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

  • Sexual Violence is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. This can happen between strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, classmates, “friends”, intimate partners and family. It includes:

    • Inappropriate touching

    • Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration

    • Sexual intercourse that a person says no to

    • Rape or attempted rape

    • Sexual harassment or threats

    • Peeping or Voyeurism (watching private sexual acts)

    • Exhibitionism (exposing themselves in public)

  • Youth Violence refers to aggressive behaviors, including slapping, hitting, kicking, bullying, punching, fist fighting and knife fighting, as well as robbery, rape and homicide.

  • Gang Violence refers to acts of aggression and violence and criminal activity committed by a group of peers where the group usually has an identity (e.g. a name; a sign; a neighborhood). In some neighborhoods, the pressure to join a gang occurs early and can be very difficult to resist. Members often join to feel a sense of family and community, and to achieve power and respect. On the flipside, members may worry about their own safety and fears of being abused by others in the gang. Gang members include all genders.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a trained volunteer. One hotline is the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673.

Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. The US Department of Health and Human Services, Women’s Health Information website provides additional information about what to do if you have been sexually assaulted.

What triggers violence?

There are a number of reasons why a person might become violent. Some of those reasons might be:

  • Anger

  • Frustration

  • Sadness

  • Trying to control another person

  • Having a short temper

A person’s belief system might also influence how the person behaves. Someone who acts aggressively or violently may believe that violence is an acceptable way to deal with anger or an acceptable way to get something that the person wants. The person may also have grown up in a family where violence was part of how family members interacted with each other.

Some ways to stop being violent

Violence is NOT okay and nobody should have to put up with it. Being angry, confused or frustrated are all normal emotions, and there are non-violent ways of expressing these emotions. If you’re having trouble managing your anger, you might want to check out the Anger & Violence and Anger Management articles.

Deciding to do something about your violent behavior is a big step and it takes a lot of courage.

Look at what makes you violent. To stop this behavior, it might be useful to make a list of the things that trigger your violent behavior. This could be a person, a situation, a mood, or drugs and alcohol. By knowing what triggers your violent behavior, you can start to avoid these things or try to work out ways to deal with the situation.

Who is affected by your violent behavior? Does it hurt anyone physically or emotionally? Do you want to have safe and secure relationships, or do you want people to be afraid of you? These questions might help you see how your violent behavior can negatively affect you and the people around you.

Talk to someone. Putting an end to violent behavior is not always easy, and having someone to support you can be helpful. You don’t have to do it by yourself. Going to counseling or visiting another mental health professional might be able to help you find ways to deal with your violent behavior.

Drugs, alcohol and violence

Using drugs and alcohol increases the likelihood that a person might act in a violent way. If you’re finding that you become violent while drinking or taking drugs, you might want to look at ways to better manage your drug and alcohol intake. A counselor or other mental health professional who specializes in addictions counseling can help you do this.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

 

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


Knowing Someone Who Is Being Bullied

 
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Do you know someone that’s being bullied?

A closer look at what you can do if you know someone that’s being bullied

 

What is bullying?

Bullying usually involves one or more people teasing, being violent towards, or harassing somebody on an ongoing basis. Bullying can happen in person or online and through cell phones. Check out the Cyberbullying and Being Bullied articles for more information.

Is someone you know being bullied?

Bullying might be difficult to recognize, as it can happen when the person is alone. People who experience bullying might be scared to talk about it, or they might feel ashamed about being bullied. This could lead to them trying to hide what is going on. If you haven’t been present when a person is being hassled, some indications that he or she is being bullied are:

  • Lack of motivation

  • Vagueness (especially when he or she is talking about certain topics)

  • Unusual behavior

  • Physical injuries

Take care that you don’t immediately assume that the problem is bullying. These signs might be visible for a variety of reasons, and not only because a person is being bullied. People can show these signs because of their personalities or because they’re dealing with other issues.

What to do if you think someone is being bullied

Talk to that person. It’s a good idea to talk to the person you think is being bullied to find out more about the situation. Try to remember that the person you are talking with could be very sensitive about the situation and could be scared to talk about it.

Let that person know you care. Help boost this person’s self-confidence. If a person is being bullied, it could affect his or her confidence. It can help to let this person know that you are a friend and that you care. It can also help to point out all the great things he or she has to offer others to boost his or her self-esteem.

Include the person into your group. Making a special effort to include the person into your group could help raise the person’s confidence.

Stick up for him or her. If you see someone is being bullied, it might be helpful to say something. Take care to ensure that in trying to stick up for the person being bullied, you don’t make the situation worse or put yourself in danger.

Speak to someone. Letting someone else know about the situation can help you solve the problem. A teacher, counselor or another adult could be helpful. It might also be helpful to involve the person experiencing the bullying in the discussion. Together, you can go and talk to someone about the situation.

Bystanders’ role in bullying

A bystander is mainly someone that is outside of the actual bullying, aware that it’s happening, and making a decision to not become involved. Whereas those bullying and being bullied are directly involved, bystanders observe the bullying happen and choose not to act. There are several things a person does, or does not do, that can make them a bystander. Some of those things include:

  • Purposefully ignoring the event entirely

  • Witnessing the event and choosing not to take the appropriate actions

  • Witnessing the event thinking something along the lines of, “at least that person wasn’t me.”

What is so wrong with being a bystander?

Research on bullying has often concluded that it occurs most frequently in the presence of bystanders who choose to merely watch the events unfold instead of doing something. By being there, you may give bullies more incentive to embarrass and threaten their victims because they will have an audience.

Unfortunately, many people believe that being a bystander is the best option to take. Some reasons people may not intervene:

  • Believing it’s “none of their business,” and therefore they choose not to take sides because it seems too nosy

  • Feeling as though stepping in will make them the new target for the bully

  • Thinking intervening will only make things worse

  • Fearful that telling a teacher or other adult will make them a “snitch” or “tattletale”.

  • Feeling it won’t doing anything or change the circumstances (this is especially true in students who have approached teachers before regarding bullying, only to find that no action was taken)

If you are in a bystander situation, how do you intervene?

Bystanders need to realize that bullying is a serious problem, and that a lack of action on their part will only give bullies more opportunities to torment their victims. Some argue that close to 50% of all bullying events stop when a bystander decides to intervene, which just further shows the importance of intervening. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you witness bullying:

Don’t assume that this is a private matter between the bully and the victim. Incidents of bullying, especially those that are frequent, are often not because of personal reasons.

Don’t combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied person. However, don’t use insults or physical violence to defend the victim. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it harder for the victim.

Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurrent problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation.

If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the victim’s shoes. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration in a person, and can turn their life into a nightmare. You wouldn’t want to feel that way.

Is stepping in yourself the only way? What if the bullies might try and attack you?

You should never step in to protect a bullied victim if it might also put your own safety at risk. If this is the case, you should talk to a teacher, counselor, or even the school principal if the problem keeps happening. Be sure to ask if you can speak to them in private, in case you are afraid of being the next target for bullies. Even if you are not directly stopping the bullying, by taking action and going to seek outside help, you are taking steps away from being a bystander.

 

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

Sexual Violence

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Sexual Violence

A closer look at what sexual violence is, how it can affect someone, and important laws you should know

Sexual violence is a crime and can refer to any type of sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. The person responsible for the violence is often someone known to the victim, and can be, but is not limited to, a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Sexual violence is never the fault of the victim.

Different types of sexual violence

There are a lot of different ways that people can become victims to sexual violence, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. These acts might include those that:

Do not include physical contact:

  • Sexual harassment

  • Threats

  • Intimidation

  • Peeping

  • Taking nude photos or videos

Do include touching:

  • Unwanted touching

  • Sexual assault

  • Rape

”Sexual assault” in everyday language is a general term that includes rape and other offenses like assault/battery and sexual groping. The definitions and labels for sexual offenses can differ slightly from state to state. In some states, sex without consent is called “rape,” while in others, it is called ”sexual assault,” ”sexual intercourse without consent,” or “sexual penetration without consent.”

Though the term “assault” may bring physical attack to mind, it isn’t just about hitting. Sexual violence can also include using force or fear to make you do things that you don’t want to do.

Why are people sexually violent toward others?

Sexual violence is not about offenders getting pleasure from sex or any other form of harassment, but rather about them asserting power and control over someone else. Some offenders have been abused themselves, but this is not always the case, and there’s no evidence that a victim or survivor of sexual assault will become a perpetrator. To learn more about the theories behind sexual aggression, check out the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

How experiencing sexual violence might affect you

Everyone reacts to the types of sexual violence differently. Individuals can experience a variety of immediate, short-term and long-term effects on their physical and emotional well being. These can include:

Shock and denial. Someone who has been a victim of sexual violence might not accept that it has really occurred. “Has this really happened to me?” and “Why me?” might be common questions that someone asks themselves.

Fear. After any form of sexual violence occurs, a person might be afraid of the offender, other people, or of being alone. A person might also be afraid to deal with the medical, legal or social consequences of the crime, and of being rejected by loved ones because of the sexual violence.

Silence. A sexual violence survivor might be unable to talk about the experience or describe what it means and feels like. There are also social pressures that might keep you from speaking, too.

Anxiety. A survivor might always be on edge. He or she might be unable to relax or feel safe.

Depression. Survivors might be at a greater risk of depression after the incident.

Guilt and blame. A survivor might continually question the events leading up to the violent event, and find fault with themselves or others for the assault. Questions they might ask themselves include, “Why did I go there?”, “Why did I let it happen?” and “Why did I not fight back?”

Low self-esteem. A survivor might feel ashamed or dirty after the assault.

Isolation. A survivor might want to be alone, and have a tendency to close him or herself off from friends and family members. A survivor might also have a hard time getting emotionally close to others after experiencing sexual violence.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Images and memories of the violence might continue in a survivor’s daily life and sleep.

Mood swings. Survivors might quickly change moods from anger and rage to tears and despair.

Loss of confidence. Survivors might become apathetic or self-conscious when working, studying or socializing with friends.

Loss of trust. After an assault, a victim might have a hard time trusting people who weren’t even connected with the incident, including friends and family members.

Lack of intimacy. Survivors might be afraid of, or uncomfortable in, sexual relationships after an assault.

To stay safe, play it safe

Most sexual violence occurs within a relationship (intimate partners, family members, or acquaintances). On average, 74% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, and 30% are by an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence can also happen outside of relationships. Check out the CDC’s fact sheet on sexual violence or the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website for statistical or crisis helpline information.

Here are some tips or things you can do to keep safe:

  • Plan to go out and hang out in a group

  • Go out with people you feel safe with and who you know have your best interests at heart. Good friends make sure that their friends are safe and make safe choices.

  • Have transportation plans to make sure you can get to where you’re going and back safely. Carry money for a taxi-cab just in case.

  • Let someone—like your parents, siblings or roommates—know where you’re going and when you’ll be home. If your plans change, let these people know.

  • Alcohol and sex can be a dangerous mix. Remember: if you aren’t in control of yourself, you won’t be able to control your situation.

  • Avoid being alone and isolated with someone you don’t know well. If you start to feel uncomfortable, go with your feelings, and get to a safe place as fast as you can.

  • Take a self-defense class at your local high school, college or recreation center. It might also be a good idea to have pepper spray, wasp spray, a whistle, or a self-defense keychain handy.

Agreeing to one type of activity such as kissing doesn’t mean that it’s a ”green light” for other sexual contact. Remember: it’s OK to change your mind and say no at any stage. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t stop being careful just because you know the person you’re with. You might not know the person as well as you think.

Sexual violence and the law

In the United States, laws relating to sex and sexual violence can differ between states. Crimes such as statutory rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse can just mean people having sex under a certain age (the age of consent), and do not necessarily include force. The age of consent varies between the states, ranging from 14 to 18, with most states setting it at 16. This means that having sex with someone under that age, even if it is consensual, is a crime. Some states base the penalty for these violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher punishments. For example, in certain states, a minor might receive as little as six months or one year in prison, and an older offender might receive life imprisonment. Most penalties range from 10 to 30 years, depending on age and state, according to the Connecticut General Assembly Report.

The federal government has certain laws to ensure that all victims of violence have their rights. Since 2003, every state has some sort of crime compensation program and victims’ rights legislation. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act, a component of the Justice for All Act of 2004, specifies the roles of various criminal justice officials in supplying the information the victim is to receive, as well as in implementing victims’ rights. A second act, the Violence Against Women Act of 1998, enhances the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and increases the jail time of the accused perpetrator before the trial. These laws, along with other state and federal laws are continuously updated and reauthorized.

Sexual violence is a crime. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or was a victim of another type of sexual violence —either recently or in the distant past—you have the right to report it to the police. If you decide to report an assault, an officer will take your statement. If the assault was recent, he or she might also ask you to have a medical examination, during which a health care professional will make sure you’re physically OK and possibly take evidence. Check out the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network for more about what happens during an examination and who might conduct it.

Where to get help

Finding the courage to talk about sexual violence is important.

If you need help, you can call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-4673 or the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 1-800-FYI-CALL. You can also call The Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 to find help in your area. You could also check out our Crisis Helplines directory to find additional resource.. Remember: do not hesitate to call your doctor, nurse, or local health professional if you feel comfortable doing so.

Each state has a sexual assault coalition that can provide with state-specific information and resources.  You can access each state’s coalition through the Office of Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice.

For emergency situations that require immediate and urgent assistance, call 911.

Information for this article was provided by:

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

Communicating About Grief

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Navigating grief and conversation

A closer look at how to connect with others after the loss of a loved one

Telling family about your loss

After someone dies it can be hard for everyone to adjust. Family members might argue with each other more often, and sometimes being with your family can be uncomfortable for you. However, it can also be a time when you can grieve together.

Try to be understanding of your family’s reactions. Doing things together like having dinner, playing a sport, or hanging out and talking about some of the things you’re feeling might help you all to better understand how each other grieves.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the person who has died. You might not want to mention that person for fear of upsetting others, but don’t forget that your family members and friends are probably already upset, even though they might not be showing it. The silence created by not talking about the person who has died might make your family members feel like that person was not significant, or that this person didn’t exist at all.

Telling friends

Friends of the person who has died might have deep feelings of grief as well. Like you, they may also want to have something of their friend’s. Try and be sensitive to their requests.

Including these people into your grieving might help you get through your own loss. Friends may also be a great source of support and good people to talk to about some of the major decisions you need to make.

Coping with other people’s reactions

Chances are your friends won’t know what to do or say to make you feel better. This can be difficult for both you and the people who are trying to support you. It may help to let them know how you’re feeling and that it might take time for you to get back into your normal routine. If there are things that your friends and relatives could do to help you out, it may be a good idea to let them know.

People may ask you a whole lot of questions that you may not want, or are not ready, to answer. It’s O.K. to tell people that you aren’t ready to talk, and that you’ll let them know when you are ready.

Get Support

While it’s important to get support from your friends and family, you might find that you need to speak with someone who’s removed from the situation, like a mental health professional or minister or other spiritual leader.

If your grief has become overwhelming and you’d like to talk to someone, you can always call a crisis helpline. They will listen to you and offer support. Never feel afraid to reach out.

Information for this article was provided by:

  • Some of the information is adapted from the book After Suicide, Help For The Bereaved by Sheila Clark. Published in 1995 by Hill of Content Publishing Company Pty Ltd, Melbourne 3000.

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


Loneliness

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Feeling lonely

A closer look at loneliness and how to develop connections with others

I feel lonely

It’s not unusual to feel lonely every now and then. However, if you’re feeling this way for an extended period of time, it can lead you to feel socially isolated. You might feel isolated from people your age, or society as a whole, for a number of reasons. You might be new to a school, city, or town. You might be geographically isolated in a rural area that is far from other people that are your age. You might be ethnically, racially, culturally or religiously different from the people around you, or you might just feel like you don’t have similar values or experiences as the people in your day-to-day life. You may also feel socially awkward, like you’re not sure what to say or do or quite how to fit in with a group you would like to connect with.

Feeling connected to a group of people is important for your health and well-being. People are naturally social beings, and those who have a strong support group are more likely to be happy and physically healthy. Social isolation can also be connected to depression and social anxiety.

How do I feel less lonely?

Depending on your circumstances, it might be hard to connect with people. For example, if you live in an isolated location, far from a large metropolitan area, your social resources might be limited. At the same time, though, big cities can feel just as lonely.

Here are a few ideas to help you connect with others, no matter where you are:

  • Join online forums and groups. Many people today find like-minded friends to connect with through the internet. The internet can bring you into touch with people all over the world, and gives you a chance through chat rooms to practice conversational skills. There are numerous online groups, pages, blogs, apps, servers, and other social media platforms that can offer connection and solidarity through mutual interest. Just remember to practice internet safety. The internet is widely anonymous and people can pretend to be whoever they want. Never give out your information or address to a stranger online.

  • Talk to a family member, teacher or youth leader. Even though you feel lonely, remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. The first step in ending your loneliness is simply talking to someone from your family, a teacher, a school or campus counselor, or your spiritual mentor/leader. Tell them how you’re feeling. Chances are they’ll be happy to help you and can give you some ideas for how to meet people and feel more connected.

  • Start small. You don’t need to find a best friend or go out with people every night of the week. Start small by finding something in common with your peers—it could be something as simple as a T.V. show, your favorite band or even the homework you had last night.

  • Challenge your negative thinking. You might feel like no one will ever understand you. But chances are that you are your own worst critic. Try to look at each situation objectively to avoid being too hard on yourself. For more tips on how to do this, check out the Challenging Negative Self-Talk article.

  • Get outside. Sometimes, even if you’re not talking or interacting with anyone, just being around other people can make you feel good. Try going to a park, a coffee shop or a library to do some people watching!

  • Join a club or a team. The best way to meet people that have the same interests as you is to join a club or a team. You can join groups through your school, local community center or faith center. Some groups you could join might be a dance group, tabletop tournaments, starting a band, joining 4H, or trying out a club your school offers. Volunteering for a cause can also be enriching for your mental health, as well as help you develop connections to others with similar values and passions.

  • Seek help. If you need immediate help and you aren’t sure where to turn, try calling Lines for Life’s Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Youthline at 1-877-968-8491. Both helplines will keep your information private and have trained volunteers who can talk to you about how you’re feeling 24/7.

Developing social confidence

If you are feeling socially awkward, there are things you can do to develop more social confidence. Social skills can be learned. Things like how to start a conversation or how to join-in on a conversation, and how to listen well to others are all things you can learn to do. You can also learn about nonverbal skills like eye contact, head nodding, and smiling, as well as when and when not to use these. While some people learn these things easily through their interactions with others, others find these skills take more deliberate rehearsal and practice. If this sounds like you, you may find it helpful to speak with a counselor or other mental health professional who can help you identify skills to develop and even help you practice those skills step-by-step before trying them out in new social situations. Often times, the more practice you have and the more you do it, the easier it will become.

 

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


Risk-Taking

Risk-taking

A closer look at the pros and cons of taking risk

What is risk-taking?

Taking a risk is when you experiment with a new behavior. This can have a positive or negative impact on your life, depending on the risk you take. Even when you take a risk and it doesn’t work out the way you expect, it can still be a positive, learning experience.

Benefits of healthy risk-taking:

  • learn new skills and experience new things (in work, school, or relationships)

  • experiment with new identities

  • increase your self-esteem

  • take on more independence and responsibility for your life

Problematic Risk-Taking

Taking a risk might become a problem if it has a negative effect on your day-to-day life. Often, these are actions can have long-lasting consequences, so it’s important to think twice before engaging in them.

Unhealthy risk-taking:

  • unprotected sex

  • drunk or high driving

  • train surfing

  • drug or alcohol abuse, including binge-drinking

  • deliberate self-harm

  • dropping out of school or getting suspended regularly

  • breaking the law, e.g. shoplifting

  • severe or excessive dieting

How can you tell when risk-taking is a problem?

When contemplating taking a risk, consider some of the following questions:

  • Does it interfere with or have a negative effect on other parts of your life, such as relationships, school and work?

  • Does it put yourself or others in danger?

  • Do you have previous experience or enough information about the consequences of the behavior?

  • Is the risk worth whatever consequences might happen?

Less risky ways to get that adrenaline rush

It’s possible to get an adrenaline rush without risking injury or the safety of yourself or others. For the more extreme sports, having a guide or mentor with you can help you stay safe while maximizing your experience.

Depending on what gets you going, you might try:

  • surfing or skateboarding

  • bungee jumping

  • skydiving

  • canyoning

  • rock-climbing

  • rollerblading

  • going on rides at an amusement park

Why take unhealthy risks?

The reasons you might take unhealthy risks include:

  • Peer pressure. It’s not uncommon to want to have respect from your friends or those whose opinion may be important to you. Engaging in a risky, dangerous activity or behavior may be a way for you to feel accepted and part of the group.

  • Feeling grown up. Falsely believing that it’s a way of proving to yourself or others that you’re an adult and that you are responsible for your own actions.

  • Escapism. Dealing with problems or escaping from unhappy situations or feelings. It may not always be obvious that you are using the behavior as a way of managing your problem or unhappy situation. For ideas on how you might be able to manage your situation in a healthier and safer way, check out the article on Developing Coping Strategies.

  • Defiance. As a form of rebellion against something or someone.

  • Attention. To get attention or a response from someone.

Deciding to change your behavior

You may be thinking about taking a risk or are already taking risks. Changing your behavior can be tough, particularly if you have been doing it for a while, feel pressure to do it, or if it means changing your lifestyle or separating from people you’ve always hung around with. For more help, check out our Problem Solving article.

The following steps may help you decide whether you want to continue or change your behavior:

Identify. Sometimes you may not be aware that a behavior is unhelpful or unhealthy. Identify the risks and benefits of your behavior and how it affects others and yourself (e.g. health, work, family etc).   

Analyze. Think about the positives and negatives of changing your behavior. This might include thinking about how you can reduce the risks associated with the behavior. Try writing a list of all the pros and cons for each risk-taking behavior you engage in.

Decide: If you do decide a change in behavior is needed, start by making a plan to change. This might include action plans and setting small, gradual goals.

Act: As you start carrying out your action plan, make sure you reward yourself for reaching each goal by providing yourself with some positive reinforcement. You also need to be prepared with the right tools to be successful. Identifying barriers to change, coping skills, and social supports are necessary to carrying out your plan of action.

Maintain: Develop strategies for sustaining the changes. This may be through your social supports and by reminding yourself why you changed your behavior. Writing down all the reasons why you’re making this change and hanging it up on your door or bathroom mirror will help you remember when things get rough or you want to start doing them again.

Relapse: You might find yourself reverting back to the unhelpful behavior. It’s important not to blame yourself or feel guilty. Changing behavior can be hard and relapse is not uncommon. If you do relapse, go back to the Decide and Act steps. Don’t allow yourself to let relapse keep you down or to make more excuses for yourself from starting the process over again. Use it as fuel to dive in again and restart the journey.

 

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


Child Abuse

Child Abuse

A closer look at what child abuse is, why it happens, and what you can do if you’re being abused

What is child abuse?

Child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver acts in a way that causes a child to be hurt physically or harmed emotionally, or fails to act to prevent such harm. When a person is abused as a child, the harm inflicted can last a lifetime. Research from the Child Welfare Gateway in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that children who are abused can have trouble developing mentally and emotionally, and be at higher risk to abuse drugs and alcohol as adults.

How does abuse happen?

Child abuse can take many different forms. Here are a few examples:

Physical abuse. According to Child Welfare Gateway, physical abuse is any physical injury to a child or young person under 18 that does not occur by accident. Physical abuse can include hitting, beating, shaking, punching, biting, burning or strangling. Under many state laws, physical abuse also includes making threats to harm a child or young person, or putting that young person in a situation that could cause serious harm.

Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse occurs when an adult forces a child or young person to engage in sexual acts, including sexual intercourse, penetration, masturbation, voyeurism (like taking sexual photographs or videos), or incest. Sexual abuse can also include forcing a young person to enter into prostitution.

Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that causes a child or young person to feel like they are worthless, flawed, and unloved. Someone can emotionally abuse another by belittling, threatening, bullying, ignoring, or isolating that person from others.

Neglect. Neglect is the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education or supervision.

Why does abuse happen?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Several factors can contribute to a greater chance for child abuse within a family. For example, parents or caregivers who were abused as children, abuse alcohol or drugs, or have mental disorders like depression and anxiety might be more likely to abuse their children. Child abuse happens in every state, and among families of all religions and backgrounds, but in every situation, it is never O.K. to harm someone else.

The effects of abuse

Abuse is often confusing. It’s hard to understand that the same person that you rely on for survival and who is supposed to look after you can also harm you. Even if the abuse happened a long time ago, it can cause you to feel emotions that might stay with you for years. There’s often a spectrum of feelings that you may have to work through in order to begin healing.

Here are a few things you might experienced:

Fear. For obvious reasons, many survivors of abuse are afraid of the people who abused them. They might also be scared of what will happen if they tell someone else that they’ve been abused. Fear can prevent victims of abuse from getting the help they need to stay safe or to deal with the abuse. Sometimes abuse can make survivors more fearful of people or situations in general and keep survivors from having meaningful relationships with others.

Nightmares and flashbacks. Some events that happen in your life can trigger memories of past abuse. For example, going back to the house you lived in when you were young, or a certain smell or food, might cause you to remember times when you were abused. You might also experience nightmares or flashbacks, which can almost be like reliving the abuse.

Anger. You might feel angry at the person who abused you, the other people in your life who might not have kept you safe, and even yourself. It’s normal to feel angry.

Guilt. You might feel as though you’re to blame for the abuse. For example, you might think that if you had done something differently-like had you gotten better grades or behaved better-the abuse wouldn’t have happened. But this is not the case. You are never to blame for abuse.

Low self-esteem. Abuse might cause you to doubt yourself or feel like you’re undeserving or unworthy. However, no matter what your abuser says, you are or were not worthless or a bad person. For tips on how to build and maintain self-esteem, check out the Self-Esteem article.

Denial. You might try to convince yourself that the abuse didn’t happen in order to bury your feelings. However, acknowledging the fact that you’ve been abused is the first step toward repairing the emotional damage it has done.

Taking the next step

Recovering from abuse can be a long process. It’s important that you have support from people who love you, as well as trained professionals, to work through your feelings.

Here are a few suggestions of where you can go to get help:

Call the police. If at any time you’re in an unsafe or potentially abusive situation, call 911 or your local police immediately.

Talk to someone. Although it might be difficult at first, it’s important to tell someone you trust if you are being abused or have been abused. People close to you, like trusted friends, family members, and teachers can support you and help you find professionals to talk to, like a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone in person, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. This hotline is free, anonymous, and available 365 days a year. Trained volunteers can connect you to people in your area who can help.

Join a support group. This can be really helpful, as it gives you a place to share your experiences and feelings with people who understand and have been through similar experiences. A counselor or medical doctor can help you find a support group in your area.

The law

The definitions of child abuse vary from state to state, but at a minimum, state laws must protect young people under 18 from physical, emotional and sexual harm and neglect. People who abuse children (and people who fail to report child abuse if they know it is happening) can face jail time and penalties. Parents and caregivers who abuse children can also lose custody and parental rights to their children.

 

Information for this article was provided by:

Acknowledgements: This article was originally 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


Being Bullied

What to do if you’re being bullied

A closer look at being bullied and how you can help yourself stay safe

There are many things you can do if you’re being bullied. Different strategies can work in different situations. You can try and work it out by yourself, but if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. Don’t be afraid to let someone know that you are being bullied—other people can be of great help. If you are being bullied at school, find a trusted teacher, school psychologist, guidance counselor, or administrator with whom you can speak. If you are being bullied at work, seek out a supervisor or a human resources manager.

Working it out yourself

Depending on how bad the bullying is (and as long as you aren’t feeling unsafe, frightened or physically threatened), you might decide to try and work it out by yourself first. Try and remember that no matter how hard you try, the bully might not be willing to change his or her behavior. At this point, talking to someone else can be really helpful.

The following tips might be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with verbal bullying on your own.

When possible, ignore the bully. Ignoring can be helpful, particularly for one-time cases. Bullies are looking for a reaction from you and often lose interest if they aren’t given the satisfaction of making you upset.

Suggestions for ignoring the bully:

  • Walk away when the bully approaches you. Try and imagine that you’re walking away from a friend. This can be a way of making sure your body language (which you’re usually unaware of) doesn’t give away a sense of fear

  • Concentrate on something else. Try thinking about what you’ll do next weekend, counting to 100, or planning your homework

  • Have a saying or a statement that you can repeat in your head when the bully approaches you to block out a sense of fear

Build a virtual wall around you. It might be helpful to build an invisible wall around you by visualizing it in your mind. Any verbal abuse then just bounces off the wall, never passing through to affect you.

Use visualization. Bullies can be pretty scary. Picturing that person looking silly might help to make them less problematic for you. For example, picture the bully’s head shrinking, or picture the bully in his or her underwear.

Stay positive. It can be hard to remember all your good points when someone is doing their best to be negative. Try to think of all the things you do well, and remember that you are a valuable person. Thinking of how bad the bully must be feeling can also help you stay positive. Often times, people that bully have been bullied elsewhere in their life. Everyone’s story is different, and we never know what someone is going through.

Surround yourself with people who care about you. Surrounding yourself with positive people who know and like you for YOU can boost your confidence. This will help you let bullying comments more easily roll off your back. It’s important that you connect with people who genuinely care for you and recognize all of your great qualities.

Hang around other people. You might be safer if you stay in groups. If you are alone, try to identify people who can offer you safety.

Be confident. Bullies usually pick on people that they think are weaker than they are, so it might help if you stand up to them.

Suggestions on how to stand up to a bully:

  • Telling him or her to leave you alone may get a bully off your back

  • Ever heard of the phrase “kill them with kindness”? Being nice to a bully may throw him or her off

  • Using humor can also throw a bully off track

  • Use positive self-talk. Try saying to yourself something like I know I am better than that. I’m not like that. I don’t have to pick on other people to know that I am good

  • Remember that your friends accept you for who you are.

Keep out of a bully’s way. It might be possible for you to avoid the bully. This can mean getting to school in a different way, or avoiding the places that you know he or she hangs out. By avoiding a bully, you’re not giving in, but looking after yourself and making sure you are happier and more comfortable.

Asking someone for help

To stop bullying—whether verbal, written or cyberbullying— it can be helpful to tell someone that you are being bullied. This can seem scary at first, but telling someone can lighten your load and help you to work out how to solve the problem. Talking to someone is particularly important if you feel unsafe or frightened, or if you don’t have many friends. Asking for help or talking to someone about your situation is not being weak or “giving in”. In fact, telling someone can take a lot of strength and courage.

There are many people who might be able to help, including friends, older brothers and sisters, teachers, family, counselors or parents. Teachers and counselors are specially trained to help you. In the workplace, you could also talk to a human resource manager or union representative.

Identify strategies that work for YOU. There are a number of ways to cope with the sadness, anger, fear, and isolation that can accompany bullying.  This can be something as simple as counting to ten or thinking of your favorite happy memory. It’s important that you identify coping strategies that work for you: think about what makes you happy or calms you and try to incorporate those things into your life. In the moment, use strategies that help you act appropriately and feel better. It can be a mantra you repeat to yourself or taking calming breaths. In the long term, there are a number of ways we can help ourselves cope with the feelings bullying creates: exercise, watching funny movies, talking to friends, playing with the family pet, etc. Find something that works for you, and if it helps, make a list of those things so you can remember all of the activities you’ve found helpful.

Some tips for getting help:

  • It might be easier if you talk to someone you know well and trust. This person can give you much needed support and might have suggestions for dealing with the situation that you might not have considered.

  • If you decide to talk to a teacher or counselor, you might feel more comfortable taking a friend with you. If you feel you might get too nervous to speak, write down what you’d like to say on paper or digitally. Don’t feel ashamed about coming forward—teachers and counselors are there to help.

  • If you think that the person you’re speaking with doesn’t believe you, or isn’t taking you seriously, or if that person doesn’t help you take action, it doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid or that the bullying should continue. It’s important you tell someone else and continue to do so until you get the help you need. It’s important to be your own advocate and speak up for yourself.

  • Being bullied can be upsetting and stressful, and it can affect your life in many different ways, including your self-esteem, relationships, work and education. If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. There is no shame in asking for help.

  • Remember, if you are in any danger of hurting yourself or someone else, it is vital that you ask for help immediately.

Your rights

Unfortunately there are no federal laws prohibiting bullying, but ever state has it’s own set of laws revolving around bullying. However, federally-funded schools are required to intervene if the bullying turns into harassment or is happening due to race, ethnicity, disability, age, sex, or religion. If the school fails to do anything to stop the harassment or discrimination, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division may be able to help.

Remember that everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. No one deserves or asks to be bullied.

 

Information for this article was provided by:


Acknowledgements: This article was partially 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


Resolving an Argument

Handling conflict with confidence

A closer look at some tools to use for better communication during an argument or disagreement

Why do people argue?

It is normal to argue or disagree with people. Everyone experiences some conflict in their life. Conflict can occur between friends, family and couples. It can also occur between you and your teachers, co-workers or even someone you barely know.

Disagreements or conflicts with people you see regularly, or those you are closest to, can turn into an uncomfortable and stressful experience. Resolving this kind of conflict or disagreement isn’t always an easy thing to do. Conflict or disagreements with people you know can arise for any number of reasons.

Here are a few:

  • You may be having trouble understanding someone else’s perspective on an issue

  • You might feel that your point of view or perspective isn’t being heard or considered

  • You may have different beliefs and values than someone else

  • Your needs may conflict with someone else’s needs

  • You may not be happy about how someone is treating you

  • You may be feeling stressed, anxious or angry about something and need to address it with another person

How to resolve your differences

Approach them in person. If it’s at all possible, try to meet with the person so you’re face to face. If you’re unable to meet in person, avoid having this difficult conversation over text. It’s hard to understand what either of you mean when you can’t hear it in their voice and things can easily be taken the wrong way. Phone calls are a much better option if you’re speaking long distance.

Be mindful. Talking to the person about your disagreement can be helpful as long as it is done in a mutually respectful manner and is most effective when both parties can talk calmly. Make sure it is done in a constructive way by thinking about the points you want to express. How you discuss your differences will be very important to come to a conclusion that all parties will feel happy about. It can be easy to get back into an argument while you are trying to resolve it, and that’s okay. It might just mean you have more work to do in addressing all facets of the issue, so that everyone’s needs are being met.

Allocate time to talk. It’s not a good idea to spring the discussion on the other person, unless you’re in the right time and place. Tell them calmly that you want to talk to them about the disagreement at a time when you can both be present with each other.

Gain an understanding of each other’s perspective. To help understand why the disagreement started, it may help to ask questions about their point of view. It is important to make sure that when you are listening to the other person’s perspective; you are actually listening and not adding your opinion or thinking of a response. You will have the opportunity to tell your side or give your opinions. When it is your turn, nicely remind the other person that you gave them the space and time to tell their side of it and it is now your time. You both might even prefer to write down your point of view so you both can read it and think about what the other has said. Then you can come together and discuss the disagreement knowing where each of you stand. Remember, there is a possibility that the other person might not want to talk about it. Writing down your point of view and how you feel might be helpful to you, but you have to prepared that the other person might not want to discuss the conflict with you or may take what you said wrong because they couldn’t hear how you meant for things to come across.

Explain how you feel. When you talk to the person, tell them how you feel. Your feelings are different from your perspective or point of view. Using “I feel ____ when you ___” helps keep the conversation open without blaming the other person. Everyone has a right to their feelings. You can try to explain how you feel as a result of their opinion, e.g. “I felt that you wouldn’t hear me out” or “It felt like you were judging me”. Try not to blame them or make statements about their perception of the problem. This should be about how you felt. Give them the opportunity to tell you how they felt too. Being in touch with each other’s feelings can make both parties more empathetic of the other’s experience.

Use a mediator. You may need someone else to help you resolve the disagreement. Asking another person to act as a mediator can help you both get another perspective on the disagreement. It is important that this person is neutral in both of your eyes (e.g. having your boyfriend mediate a conflict with your best friend might not be the best option). Anyone can act as a mediator including friends, a counselor, a supervisor or a psychologist.

Conflict with someone at work or at school. If you have a disagreement with someone you work with and you feel that you cannot resolve your differences together, you might need to contact your human resources department for the procedures to resolve the issue. They may tell you to discuss the matter with your supervisor or they may handle the conflict. Each employer is different on how they handle conflicts for employees. If you have a conflict with someone at school who may have a higher status than you (e.g. a professor, school administrator or teaching assistant), there are usually counselors or ombudsman that can help you resolve these conflicts.

Agree to disagree. Resolving a conflict should not be seen as a contest to see who won or who was right or wrong. Even after taking steps to resolve a conflict, you might not still be able to agree. If the person you are in this conflict with is an important person to you and their relationship with you is one you want to keep, it is okay to agree to disagree on this issue.

What if the disagreement turns into a yelling match?

If the argument is becoming too heated, it may be best to put a pause on the discussion. Tell them you need a little space to collect your thoughts and leave the room for a while. Take a walk and allow yourself to process what just happened. When you are both level headed again, re-enter the conversation. It can be easy to say things you didn’t mean if you don’t allow yourself the space to cool down.

Although not every argument or disagreement will lead to the extinction of a relationship, there are times when it does. If neither of you can come to an agreement, and the issue is extremely important to one or both of you, it may be good to take a break from each other. There are some issues that cannot be resolved, and that’s okay. It’s all a part of this process we call life.


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