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Why We Still Need to Check In on Our Long-Lost Friend's Mental Health

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I am still stunned at hearing another famous “young” person has ended her life. I search for more details of Kate Spade’s death to try to fill a hole in myself I can’t yet identify. My next stage is sadness as I read that she was struggling with depression.

It reminds me of people I’ve known who were constantly down, and quite frankly, had been downers to be around. I drifted away from them because they seemed unhelped by my influence. I had my own health problems and made choices to be around positive people, but I wonder if anyone stayed with them. Now that I’m older, have better skills and with advanced technology, I think I could do better.

Let’s all do better at checking in with those who might be hard to be around instead of just drifting away from them. Whether you visit, call or electronically reach out, we all have a few minutes out of a year to make sure our person doesn’t end up with ongoing isolation. We may not know it now, but this will help us grow too.

If you and all those who know that person can do that even two times a year, what a difference that would make to remind that person they have value and are remembered. Even if we don’t hear it in the conversation we have, it might snap them out of obsessions and downward spirals even for a day.

Find out who they’re close to by asking, “Who are you closest to these days?” The less human contact she has, the more important your impact will be. If you have mutual friends, maybe you can inspire them to call her regularly, too. Facebook will be a big advantage for this.

Electronic Tips: Find out what interests that person, and send him or her a joke, an article or a picture on the topic.

Tips for interacting by phone or in person: Let’s skip the part where we explain why it’s been so long since the last time, or promise we’ll be better at keeping in touch. Just enjoy the interaction — there was a reason you were initially friends after all.

Let the person struggling set the pace for the talk, give some pauses so he can gather his thoughts. It may feel uncomfortable asking the person questions about his day, so ask if he wants to talk about his day, or his health or his frustrations and don’t feel like you have to solve any of it. After listening, ask him what would be helpful to hear. An idea? Validation?

If your visit is coming to an end (it’s OK to preset an end time!), and you haven’t shared anything about yourself, ask the person what he wants to know about you. Accept that it may take a bit of effort to find something new in common you like talking about: like pets, hobbies, current news or entertainment, books, movies, etc.

Let’s not give up on people so easily. All of us are vital and irreplaceable.

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Getty image via Neda Krstic

Originally published: June 14, 2018
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