On Mental Health: How to be a Light in the Dark

It’s not easy when someone you love is feeling down. No matter how happy your life may be, their sadness will weigh heavily on your heart and spirit. How can you reach out to those who are feeling miserable, you ask? My Pope points the way.

Be There

(Photo by Rémi Walle)

Making someone feel that there is someone he or she can talk to can go a long way. Ed Caligner, PhD, Licensed Clinical Counseling Psychologist and Licensed Guidance Counselor at the Ateneo de Manila Senior High School, says that “The best way to help someone who is feeling sad but may not be clinically diagnosed as depressed, first and foremost, is to be present with that someone.”

Listen

(Photo by Felix Russell-Saw)

 

The next step to reaching out is to listen not just with your ears, but with your heart. “The kind of listening that is necessary is not just to listen to the words or what is being said or shared, but to listen to what he or she cannot say,” advises Dr. Caligner. He says you can do this by observing your loved one’s body language. How do their eyes, their posture, or their facial expressions look?

 

Talk and Pay Attention  

It may sometimes seem that the person you’re trying to help doesn’t want to listen, but there are a few things you can say to let them know that you are listening. Dr. Caligner suggests that you tell them the following: “I understand how you feel,” “I know it’s not easy,” “That must be difficult.” But he also adds that there are times when words aren’t necessary and a reflective silence will work better. Try not to be distracted when listening, and focus solely on the other person by making eye contact. As Pope Francis once said, “Look someone in the eyes and you open the doors of their heart.”

 

Be Grateful

In order to be faithful to your task of cheering up your loved one, Bec Yao, PhD, Certified Psychotherapist for Children, says you also must remember to look at your own life and be grateful for your blessings. It will help keep the blues away. However, this may not be something you should preach to your sad friend. Telling them they need to be grateful instead of sad might just get them angry with you, making it even harder to cheer them up.

 

Love   

In the end, it is your love that will light up the life of your sad loved one. As long as you remember to listen, to be present, and not to be pushy, your love will shine through. As Pope Francis says, “And what can make us happy if not the experience of love given and received?”

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This article is from My Pope Philippines magazine’s June 2018 issue. Words by Ines Bautista-Yao. Edited for web by Aizel Dolom.
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