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The 2 Simple Things You Can Do to Help Save a Person's Life

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What if I told you there are two things you can do to help save someone’s life?

Would you do them?

There are two things all of us are capable of doing that can help people struggling with mental illness and potentially save someone’s life. These may come more naturally to some of you, but for some of us, we may have to work on it.

1. Listen.

Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs listens to Grateful Berthia as he stands on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge
Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs listens to Grateful Berthia

Notice I didn’t say “hear;” there is a big difference in listening and hearing. I love the way Mental Health First Aid teaches about listening. They talk about listening without judgment. This means really listening to discover what the other person has to say and to understand why they are hurting. One of my favorite people, Grateful Berthia, spoke at a recent conference and said, “Listening saved my life.” He was talking about Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs. At the time, Grateful Berthia was standing on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge. He had already crossed over the ledge and was getting ready to jump. Berthia says, “Right before I jumped, I heard someone say, ‘Wait a minute!’ and then he just listened as I told him everything I was thinking and feeling.” Even though Grateful Berthia didn’t know the man who was listening to him at the time, he still knew he was being listened to — and this saved his life. This is only one example of how important and powerful listening can be. Grateful Berthia talks about the impact of listening in his TedxTalk.

2. Share your story.

With at least one in five people struggling with some type of mental health concern in any given year, there are a lot of people in the world who have lived experience. When they share their story in an appropriate way, these people can greatly benefit and help others who may be having similar struggles. Please note: you should only share your story when you are comfortable with doing so, and only share what you are comfortable with sharing. It took me almost 20 years before I was ready to share my story. I can tell you it has been rewarding and therapeutic for me, but it has also been scary at times.  

Some tips to consider before sharing your story:

  • Make sure you want to share your story.
  • Know why you want to share your story.
  • First share your story with one or a few people you trust and feel comfortable around. I remember the first person I told my whole story to was Heather Williams. She listened and I did not feel judged, so I shared with a few other co-workers. As my confidence grew, I began to share my experiences more openly, and I continue to do so when I feel it is appropriate or beneficial to help someone else.   
  • Be prepared for the range of emotions you may feel after sharing your lived experience.

My friend Josh Rivedal is an international speaker who helps share the value of telling your story. When presenting, he helps explain how sharing a story can be very helpful, beneficial and inspiring. Josh believes in this so strongly he decided to create a book series called the i’Mpossible Project . So far there is one book in the series in which 50 different people share their stories, and the stories show just how powerful and resilient humans can be.  

Imagine a world where people can feel safe to share their story and know they will be listened to (non-judgmentally). This is the world I am working towards in my own life. I think we have so much we can learn from each other, if we only listened. I think we can all benefit from being listened to as well.  

This story originally appeared on Listening Saves Lives.

Originally published: August 26, 2016
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