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Natural Helpers
 
Who are Natural Helpers?   
The term Natural Helpers refers to adults and/or peers in a young person's life whom they naturally relate to when they need support or help with a problem. The We CARE project recognizes that Natural Helpers are an important support network and are often the first persons to encounter a young person who may be struggling. Although youth may typically turn to their peers for support, results of a recent survey in two area  high schools indicated that  when given a choice of adults, youth would, overwhelmingly (86%), turn to their parents or other family members for support.  It is the intent of the We CARE project to connect with Natural Helpers and offer education, information and support in the promotion of youth mental health and prevention of youth suicide.
 
What Youth Tell Us About Natural Helpers...
Through focus groups run by the We CARE project, youth have told us that natural helpers..
  • genuinely listen without judging
  • show that they care and are involved in the youths life
  • draw on their own life experiences
  • are trustworthy and honest
  • show empathy
  • support them in getting help if needed

What is the role of the Natural Helper?

 with youth and reassure them you are always there.

  • show the young person by your actions that you care, ie., send a positive text message, go for coffee, show up at their activities, share a meal
  • reassure youth that being a teenager can be challenging, that help is always available and  that you are there for them
  • pay attention to what youth are doing and saying, who they are hanging out with, notice changes
  youth to share what’s happening in their lives and listen
without judging.
  • Engage in conversations on a regular basis, so you're not only talking when you see problems. Ask  questions but be prepared for some answers you may not like.
  • find the right time to talk that works for both of you, put away distractions and give your full attention
  • avoid minimizing what the young person is dealing with, stay away from sarcasm, ridicule and put downs

 out to youth and ask them what they need.

  • It is important that you take the lead from the young person and assist them in a way they feel is supportive
  • promise privacy but never promise confidentiality! Let the young person know that their well- being is the most important thing to you and you may need to get support
  • youth may need to think about 'what they need', promise to revisit the conversation again
‚Äč and encourage youth in all that they do and support them in 
seeking help when needed.
  • encourage youth to use helpful strategies to take care of themselves when under stress, i.e., eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, avoid drugs or alcohol, balance activities.
  • offer to look up resources and supports with the young person.  Explore www.kidshelpphone.ca or the We CARE website together.
  • Connect with other supports if you have concerns. Visit the Getting Help section of this web site.
How Can I Learn More About Helping Youth?
Check out the upcoming events section on the home page to find out about local workshops hosted by our partner agencies and upcoming mental health events.
 
What if I'm really concerned for a young person's safety?
ANY SUSPICION THAT A YOUTH MAY BE CONSIDERING SUICIDE MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.  WHEN THE YOUTH'S ACTIONS OR WORDS ARE CAUSE FOR CONCERN, TAKE THE YOUNG PERSON TO THE NEAREST HOSPITAL EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT OR CALL 911.
 
What are the danger signs?
In some cases those who die by suicide, do not give any warning at all. Many, however, offer clues and communicate their plans to others. Individuals expressing suicidal intentions should always be taken seriously.  Some of the signs to look out for are:
  • direct suicide threats such as “I want to die,” or indirect threats such as “You would be better off without me”
  • personality changes or withdrawn behaviour
  • hoarding medication
  • giving away prized possessions
  • lack of interest in future plans
  • isolation from friends and colleagues
  • depression
Threats that may signal imminent danger often come from people who are isolated, who have attempted suicide before (and then were discovered only by accident), are impulsive, and have access to lethal means (weapons, drugs). (Adapted from Canadian Mental Health Association)
 

DO

DON'T

  • Stay calm
  • Take it seriously
  • Physically get at the youth's level, i.e., sitting
  • Present as caring
  • Explore thoughts and feelings
  • Identify and prioritize immediate stressors
  • Seek assistance
  • Promise Privacy

 

  • Panic!
  • Ignore the person's need to talk
  • Allow external disruptions
  • Minimize the youth's distress
  • Moralize about the young person's thoughts or feelings
  • Be reluctant to draw on the expertise of others
  • Leave the youth alone
  • Promise confidentiality