Maria S Panitsidis
The Importance of a "Safe Person"
"Safe means that we feel protected from danger, from judgement, from isolation, from harm (emotionally, mentally and physically) that we feel cared for and not likely to be harmed"
"We can make the assumption that those we love and those who love us, are 'safe people'. In actuality they may not be and this is ok. This isn't to say that our loved ones don't want the best for us, this simply means that in terms of what a 'safe person' provides they may not be the right person for when we truly need someone to turn to in a specific moment"
Often times those who struggle with mental health disturbances may feel alone, in their problems, their depression, and their anxiety. Many don't always understand "why I feel like this, where it comes from, how can I fix it, and what I need to do to change it". They will ask a lot of questions, when all you want is someone to just sit and listen. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 1 in 5 U.S adults experience mental health, 1 in 25 U.S adults experience serious mental illness and 17% of youth, 6-17 years old experience a mental health disorder, with these statistics, you are surely not alone. However, I understand how one could feel that no one can empathize or "get" how it feels.
No one is immune from experiencing a mental health disturbance at some point in their life. A 'Safe Person' is someone who you can turn to at the darkest most lowest point in your life or someone you reach out to when something wonderful happens! this person is someone who possesses qualities that showcase a 'healthy friendship'. An article written by Wanda Thibodeaux "Want To Know If Someone Is Trustworthy? Look For These 15 Signs". She has identified these 15 signs to help put into perspective the type of person(s) we should have in our lives, not just in terms of safe people but, also making sure that those who are in our lives do in fact have these traits.
A safe person is the one you call when you are having thoughts of suicide, if you are having self-harming behaviors, if you can't stop crying, if you feel you are isolating and regressing. This person has to encompass many of the 15 signs mentioned above. Those of us who suffer with any sort of mental health issue often times look for cracks in the barriers, meaning; "are they just talking to me to be nosey, do they really care? do they want something?" when we feel calm and loved and safe we are much more likely to open up. This person should also have dealt with their mental health concerns and should not also be in crisis. While we cannot know what others are going through, it is up for our "safe person" to determine if they are able to fulfill their duties.
Why aren't some loved ones good 'safe people', in my opinion, I feel this is up for the person to decide. Sometimes our loved ones practice 'tough love' in the moment of crisis we don't need tough love, we need 'kid glove' treatment. This doesn't mean we can't hear the truth, this means we just cannot hear it right in this specific moment. Ethnic families are notorious for giving 'tough love', We will never lie to you, we will always tell you the truth. On the other hand they will be the first to tell you, that crying is weak and to buck up and get it 'together'. This may not always be the majority, but in my experiences in many ethnic families and individuals I have treated, more seek safe people outside of their family circles. Also, everyone is different. You know the relationships you have with your loved ones. You decide if they are the best safe person for you. The person you choose as your safe person should also, know your story, your triggers, warning signs, signs that your mental health symptoms have decreased or increased. Giving that person important information (mental health diagnosis, medication lists, name and contact information of your mental health provider and primary care doctor) should they need to call mobile crisis or accompany you to the emergency room.
Whether you choose to identify a safe person or you already have one. This is just one more way to strengthen your support network, another tool to throw into your coping skills tool box to help you on your journey through recovery.
We all need someone who is there to help.
It is equally as important to be that person when we are able to be.
Until next time....Thank you for reading,
Smile & Be Well.