Do you mean it?
Do you mean the words on the card you’ve bought for someone? Are you prepared to support that person if they accept your offer of help?
If not, please don’t buy one.
I’d rather not sell any cards than be party to ‘lip service’ offers of help with no substance behind them.
I say that from someone who suffers greatly with their own mental health. When you’re suffering, there is nothing more hurtful or damaging than someone who says they’ll help and then disappears when you need it the most. Saying you want to help but being unsure of how to is completely expected (especially if you’ve never struggled with mental illness yourself) but please don’t give someone one of these cards just so you can tell your conscience you’ve done something to help them. It will cause more harm than good.
Essentially, what I’m saying to you is this: don’t give these cards out lightly.
If you’ve already got a great relationship (in whatever form that may come) with the person you are giving a card to, you have slightly more freedom to say what you want. Whether it’s to fill the back of the card with heartfelt words or some dark humour you know you’ll both laugh at, in reality the person struggling is likely to know that you’re already there for them but appreciates the reminder.
But, as I suspect the cards will inherently be used to start difficult conversations around mental health, I’m aware that you’re going to be worried about the potential pitfalls of what and what not to say to someone struggling as it’s unlikely you’ve broached the topic with that person already. So I will remind you, do you mean it? If you’re offering help or a chat in the pub, will you actually follow through with it?
You don’t have to be an expert or even know what the hell you’re doing when it comes to supporting a friend/colleague/loved one who is struggling and giving them a card but you have to be willing to TRY. Your best resource for understanding mental illness and whats needed is the person struggling with it so ask them what you can do to help. Do they need you to get your mates round theirs for a game of FIFA and a take-out every week (even if they don’t feel like talking or playing, they just want company)? Do they need you to prep some meals for them ahead of their work week? Look after their kids for a couple hours? Or do they just need you to tag them in stupid videos and memes all day on Facebook?
If you give someone a card and they ask for your emotional support, don’t shy away from it. You don’t have to be mentally ill to appreciate that life can feel like shit at times so you’ll nearly always have some common ground with each other over difficult times if you start talking honestly.
If you genuinely don’t know what to say or do if someone opens up to you, do your research! If you don’t know what it’s like to experience a particular mental illness, try and find out as much as you can about it. Read up on official websites. Read blogs. Watch videos. There is a wealth of first-hand knowledge on the Internet; you just have to be willing to look for it. It is one thing to remain blissfully ignorant around a topic (we can’t know everything about everything) but to remain wilfully ignorant after someone finds the strength to open up to you is inexcusable in today’s information age. Trying to help (and saying something stupid) is better than not trying at all.
So what could you write on the back of the cards?
That’s the beauty of them. If you already know how someone is struggling maybe you could use it as an opportunity to open up about your experience so that they realise that they are not alone and that you have common ground?
- Maybe you’ve seen a great event happening locally that you think would be good for that person?
- Have you read a good article or found a great website/blog that you think could help that person?
- Do you just want to remind them that they’re loved for and cared about?
- Maybe you just want to share a good joke you heard in the office the other day?
The possibilities are endless and they’ll all be gratefully received no matter what you say. Why? Because the very fact that you’ve bought and given them a card proves that you care about them in some way or another and all we truly crave out of this life is acknowledgement and connection with each other.
Despite what I’ve written above, sending a Comfort Card™ to someone isn’t as scary as it sounds. Essentially it’s about being a kind and caring human who recognises that someone else is struggling and wants to help as best they can.
Some of my closest friends are friends because I allowed them to see my pain and we support each other through difficult times. By giving a card to someone, you might not just gain a new friend or strengthen the relationship you already have with that person but you might just save their life and isn’t everyone worth the effort of a little card and the cost of its postage to keep them alive?
If you’d like to host these cards in your company to help your employees, please get in touch so we can discuss your needs in more detail. Please note I will not allow these cards to be used in larger companies that do not have Employee Assistance Programmes or SMEs that don’t have mental illness acceptance amongst its management.