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April 30, 2018 | by  | in Opinion SWAT |
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Supporting someone going through a difficult time is hard. Often it can feel like you don’t have the right to speak out, that you don’t deserve to feel sad because “at least I’m not going through _____”. We give no thought to our own wellbeing when a friend calls us in the middle of the night to talk about their feelings. It’s as though some programming in our brain suddenly lights up with one mission only: helping our friend.

The truth is, supporting a friend’s mental health means looking after your own. It means making sure that you’re not just absorbing your friend’s pain without having your own outlet. It means creating boundaries if you feel like you’ve become someone’s last resort. And that’s hard. It’s hard to take a step back from our instincts to help, it’s hard to tell a friend in pain that we might be in pain too.

I used to have a major issue with this. A doctor once told me that I seemed “drawn to people in pain,” and he didn’t mean it as a compliment. It felt like I was trapped in a constant state of panic. The idea of boundaries and outlets seemed ridiculous — what if it hurt my friend’s feelings? What if I made things worse? No, no, far better to just continue being there for them, far better to let things remain as they were.

I’ve come to realise that this mindset wasn’t doing me or my friend any favours. When I began making my boundaries clearer, when I began ensuring that I was never someone’s last resort, I was suddenly able to help in a much stronger and healthier way. The worry I felt was lifted, and I could be supportive with genuine energy.

We all have mental health. It’s not something that dramatically pops out with a diagnosis, it’s a companion we have throughout our entire lives. That’s why we need to be aware of how we’re feeling when we’re supporting someone. We need to be there for our friends, but we also need to be there for ourselves too. Keeping ourselves safe will keep our friends safe too.

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He Tāonga

:   I wanted to write this piece, in order to connect to all tauira within the University, with the hope that we can all remind ourselves that we are a part of an environment which is valuable, no matter our culture, our beliefs or our skin colour. The ultimate purpose of this