How Can I Help a Loved One Get Through Their Emotional Suffering?

For the past 7 years I have been a social worker in both the mental health field and the field of developmental disabilities. During this time I have worked in numerous group homes, assisted in various supported living arrangements, and I have been in and out of many mental wards in various hospitals and institutions. I have worked closely with hundreds of individuals suffering across a wide spectrum of emotional trauma including but not limited to: Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, PTSD, OCD, Anxiety, Depression, BDD, Agoraphobia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anorexia and the list goes on.

Coincidentally, I have personally struggled with some of these same issues throughout my life. Most notably a very difficult 10-year period where I struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Panic Attacks, Anxiety and Depression. It is only in the past four years that I have freed myself from my former masters of mental torment, emotional pain, and spiritual suffering that had imprisoned me the 27 years prior.

There were various factors that contributed to my own healing. If I had to pick the most important one, it would have to be the tremendous support that I received from my friends and family. Had I not had such a great support system available I may not be alive today. Even had I survived, without such support, I am fairly certain that I would have become a ward of the state, living in one of the very same group homes or mental institutions that I ended up working at! In fact, every time that I visit a mental ward I invariably reflect on how lucky I was to have had such great support because, I realize that the unkempt and lifeless man I see sitting in the corner could have very easily been me.

So what do I mean by support? Well, let me first explain what support does not need to be. Support does not require that you have all of the answers to your friend or loved one's suffering. Support does not mean that you need to take on the role of psychiatrist or therapist for your friend or loved one. Rather the essence of support in this kind of situation is basic: Keep your friend or loved one breathing! Simply help them to survive.

Typically, most people who need to support a friend or family member suffering from emotional trauma have absolutely no idea how to help ease that person's pain. This is okay! You don't need any special set of skills to be a tremendous support in this situation. Do not put all of the pressure on yourself to heal your loved one's pain because you probably can't do this anyway. Do everything in your power to get your friend or loved one the kind of specialized help that they need. This specialized help will vary pending on the circumstance. For the suicidal or self-injurious individual it is imperative that you get them in a supervised and controlled environment where they cannot hurt themselves. For the bed ridden individual who is severely depressed it is crucial that you eventually get them on the road to recovery via a self-help program, therapy, a visit to the psychiatrist, or preferably all three.

The basic overall strategy is a simple one-two combination. First, find them the specialized help that they need and, secondly, do whatever you need to do to help them survive. Step one is simple thanks to this thing we use called the Internet that has unlimited information available on virtually any idea that has ever been conceived. Step two is the challenge.

To be an effective support for your loved one you simply need to be sincere and flexible in your efforts. Be what your loved one needs you to be. If they want to talk then lend your ear. If they want to be alone then let them be alone. It will likely be very frustrating and confusing figuring out how you should relate with your loved one during their time of need. So it would probably be helpful to learn about the specific trauma your loved one is going through. For instance, if your loved one is depressed then buy a book or go on the Internet to learn more about the nature of this thing called depression. Doing so will offer you more understanding and likely increase your ability to be an effective support. I must reiterate that you need not become an expert with all of the answers. Rather, learning just a little bit about your loved one's emotional turmoil will likely go a long way in helping both of you cope with the stress that you will both undergo throughout the healing process.

Wrapping up let me state that helping a friend or loved one get through their emotional trauma is not easy. But just because you are not a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, do not think that you are not a key player in helping your loved one overcome their emotional trauma. In fact, you just may be the most important player. But don't be overwhelmed. Remember this simple, but not easy, one-two combination. First find your loved one the specialized help that they need. Second, keep your loved one breathing. As long as they have a pulse they can be healed! In fact, all that is a required is a heartbeat and adequate support! Eight years ago I was at the end of my rope and I nearly hung myself with it. But I didn't because of the incredible support that I received from a select group of friends and family. Thanks to my supporters, today I stand before the world as a confident, productive, grateful and complete man. So please, do not lose hope for your friend or loved one. Never lose hope, for the rewards can be greater than you or they could ever possibly imagine. Keep fighting!

Pictures for Life
With the possibility that I may be an undiscovered Van Gogh or Monet, getting the paints and canvas out has a lovely romanticism about it, and an excitement when I imagine myself in a field of poppies wistfully painting without a care in the world.

Not only as a creative outlet but used for expressing our feelings, art can be a great source of pleasure for whiling away that elusive period of "spare time" and is a good relaxant too. The finished article doesn't have to be a work of art, it is more about the time spent doing it, and taking a little time to splash the colour can do no harm and may even be a pleasant surprise.

Although a great idea for a new hobby, art is used therapeutically as a substitute for verbal communication. From an early age we all learn to relate to colours and picture formats before written words. Artistic pursuits later are very personal forms of expression, they allow us to tune into the mind and transfer feelings and thoughts to a visual media. Used in different forms, it provides a great tool for holistic work and as a development aid for many types of emotional situations.

Art can bring to life a stagnated imagination, when it seems there's only 'black and white' in front. It can help in many stages of returning from illness, reaction to traumas, or even as a life boost cognitively, and to psychologically help us revalue what we have.

Although very personal, drawing and painting as part of a group can be just as much fun, and can conquer many barriers in new environments. It acts as an interactive tool for people to release inhibitions and find confidence and spiritually is used very often as a pre-meditation action to clear restrictive thinking.

In the 1940s, ideas from psychoanalysis and art were combined to develop art as a tool to help patients release unconscious thoughts. Patients' creations began to be considered as a type of symbolic speech. An artist named Hana Kwiatkowska at the National Institute of Mental Health used her knowledge as an artist into the field of family work and introduced methods of treatment techniques using art therapy.

Art is after all an expression of feelings and in our lives we should never be restricted or feel barriers around our emotions. Of course it doesn't have to be a paintbrush we are armed with to connect with our inner self of creativity. There are many mediums such as photography, collages or sculptures.

Some are blessed with a natural ability to paint or draw, however it's important we feel what we're doing is our own expression and it can be amazing even if it doesn't turn out quite as we imagined. We should always welcome our visual insight and embrace the feelings of trying something new.

Life is all about learning and growing. So we may not turn out the million dollar oil painting and the cat looks like a dog, but if we have had fun along the way and learned a little then that's what really counts isn't it?

Tameera Kemp is the founder of Light Stays Retreats and Living - the worlds most advanced holistic directory for retreats, events and classes.

She formerly managed adult education for eight years at a top Australian university, creating one of their most successful course programs in journalism, media and communications.

Tameera has a special interest in websites and their power to connect people worldwide, blogging, social media and developing online resources to enrich personal development, wellbeing, creativity, travel and growth. Tameera established Light Stays Retreats and Living in 2011 creating her dream global resource to inspire and guide your journey.

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