If you only have 30 seconds, please read this part:
Widowed Village is not an appropriate support for people who are considering or talking about suicide or self-harm. Members, volunteers, and administrators should immediately refer any member in one of those situations to a suicide hotline, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Please read on if you have a few more minutes ….
Widowed Village was created to provide peer support for widowed people. As we say over and over again, we are not professionals: not therapists, doctors, financial advisors, or attorneys. Yet our members are dealing with one of the biggest challenges of their lives. How do we balance our desire to help with what we are able to do?
It’s very important for members to understand how these boundaries — of peer support, and of online friendships — affect our community. It’s also part of our “self care” and responsible friendship to not offer more than we can deliver.
What if someone is doing really badly?
When a member is in a state of EXTREME stress… when they do not seem to be “improved” by the conversation that is offered … when they seem hopeless or desperate, Widowed Village members should NOT attempt to “help” them out of their extreme state.
It can be tempting to reach further out to help someone in a bad situation. You may feel pulled — especially if you received huge help from this community, from peer support in general, or by sharing your story — to stay on the line and try to “help” someone who’s mentioned suicide or who just seems to be extremely upset or down.
Resist this impulse, though it comes from a good place in your heart. People whose lives are at stake MUST receive professional help.
How do I know “how bad it is?”
If you are thinking to yourself, “what is wrong with this person?” … that is a message to you. If you are feeling, “I wish I could help this person” or “I just don’t know what to do” … your anxiety, your emotions are a cue to you that the situation is beyond your expertise. If you start looking for someone with “more experience” on the site… That means you feel overwhelmed. Those are signs that the situation is not appropriate for Widowed Village.
It is common for widowed people to express a wish to die so that they can be with their loved one. Confusion, anger, sadness are common feelings. But you should not take too much time “thinking” whether or not they are serious. It is not your job as a friend to know how to measure their level of desperation or the intent behind their words. If your emotions are pushing on you…. listen to those signs and please encourage a desperate member to seek professional support.
What do I do when someone is desperate or extremely down?
The safest place for someone to be, when they are in a real crisis or desperate state, is at a hospital or on the phone with a national suicide hotline. The best way for YOU to help them is to encourage them to get off the computer and call a national suicide hotline.
Grief is a bummer, but it doesn’t kill people (not directly anyway). Depression and suicide are different. Hotline staff and volunteers are specially trained to help people out of these situations. They are significantly different from even the most experienced volunteers on Widowed Village.
What about other types of crisis?
It’s really the same for financial crises and other situations (although there are no hotlines!). If a member is asking for help with a financial or legal problem, or with understanding a complicated government benefit like Social Security, you can send them to a professional (or a website run by professionals) rather than trying to solve the problem yourself.
But I feel like I’m abandoning my friend.
You can still be a friend by checking up on someone who’s had a crisis and your friendship may be even more valuable. And with time, you may come to see that referring someone to “the right resource” is a loving and useful job.
That number, please?
I encourage all members to save this information:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Questions? Write to Site Administrator directly.