Taming The Black Dog:
The black dog is like a demon which will control how a person thinks and feels about themselves and the world around them.
When we train a dog to behave in a certain way we need to talk to him, sometimes very firmly. Our aim is for the dog to obey us not the other way about. If you have a friend who is struggling with life it is like they are being controlled by an outside force. We need to help them take control of that force (the black Dog) so that they are the master or the one in control.
You Have Observed Some Worrying Changes in Your Friends Behavior!
What Can You Do as a Friend?
If you have observed several worrying changes in your friend or loved one which seem to be forming a permanent part of their personality and behavior then you need to consider seriously having a conversation with them or if you do not feel competent or confident enough to do it then introduce them to a third person who is skilled and sensitive in encouraging people to open up about how they are feeling.
Do not wait until the changed patterns of behavior have become a habit. It can take a long time to break a habit once it is formed.
Here are a few tips to help
- Choose a time and place where both of you will feel comfortable and relaxed and free of interruptions or distractions. Begin with some easy flowing talk about how they are feeling lately. Perhaps say something like ” I have been a bit concerned about you lately because you are not your usual chirpy self and I was just wondering if everything is OK for you?
- Give them your full attention when they respond and do not be condemning or judgmental. Listen with empathy to every word. Sometimes it’s all they might need is someone to release their deep and meaningful thoughts on without being told “it’s silly or get over it”
- If they are not ready to open up don’t push it but just offer to be there for them if they ever feel like they need someone to talk to.
- After a few days ask again how they are gong and allow them time to let it out, again don’t push, just be warm and friendly and reassure them that you are there if they need you.
- In the meantime prepare yourself by collecting a list of resources or places they can go to seek more professional assistance.
- If and when they do open up suggest they have a chat to say a local and competent doctor in handling depression. ( you have done your research)
- You also know about some really worthwhile and helpful online sites which you have already checked out.
Sites such as https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/ https://www.beyondblue.org.au https://mindspot.org.au these sites are all pertaining to Australia but there will be similar in other countries. Check them out to determine which is most appropriate for your friends situation.
If you feel they are at risk of self harm there are some direct actions you can and should take. When people start saying things like I don’t want to be here anymore or I want to end my life they are at a crisis point and need immediate help. Take them seriously.
- Ask them outright if they have thoughts of suicide. It is a hard question to ask but it may be a trigger that they need. Most don’t really want to die and cause pain and misery to their families, but their struggles have become too much for them and they don’t see any other way out.
- Listen to them very carefully and don’t laugh it off. They are at a critical point and if they can be open with you they will trust you. This is a privilege you need to value. Do not walk away from them at this point. Stay close.
- Get professional help as soon as possible. You can take them to a hospital or call 000.depending on how you evaluate the intent.
- Remain a friend, they need you more than you realize so stay in touch, follow up with their treatment and see them through the journey to health.
I should note also that sometimes you can be too close to a person to be much help. Most will be reluctant to open up to a family member but will talk to a good friend
I have a simple formula which I find helpful in dealing with situations of deep emotional pain. It is three T’s
Talk,Time and Tears.
As much as you need as often as you need and whenever you feel the need. When I grieved the loss of my father I found it helped me a lot to deal with the pain. I talked about my wonderful father to whoever would listen. I would cry whenever my thoughts drifted his way and over time I healed. I did not forget my father but the pain of that loss dissipated and I was able to function normally again.
Just before I finish this post I would like to include a PDF with some really helpful information which you can download and keep as a reference.
Fact Sheet From Conversations Matter in dealing with Suicide
This has been a heavy page but my hope is that it may save someones life. Feel free to share any of the information on this website and please remember I am not a professional in the field, it is however my advice to seek professional help when it is needed.