We are living in difficult times, with pandemics, wars, and disasters across the world. These negative events are undoubtedly causing a wave of mental health issues for many people.
We hope that italki can be a community that provides support for each other. Just like how language education can foster greater understanding and empathy for people of different backgrounds, we hope that more knowledge and better communication can help support people in stressful times.
We wanted to offer some resources and advice:
Taking Care of Your General Well-Being
Here are a few simple things you can do (or suggest to others) to help with general mental health:
- Try to keep a regular routine.
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat healthy nutritious food and drink plenty of water.
- Exercise or go for a walk.
- Forgive yourself for not being as productive as you’d like.
- Make sure you do things that you like and make you happy.
- Try some mindfulness meditation.
- Take breaks for yourself.
- Reflect on your day or keep a journal.
Caring for Other People's Well-Being
As part of the italki community, you may come into contact with people that may be victims of direct trauma. How can we help them? Here are some signs to look for, and suggestions for how to handle it:
- Unusual moods. People may become suddenly withdrawn, irritable, or quick to frustration and anger. Be patient and sympathetic, try to create a safe space for that person where they can share if they wish to. Try to make them comfortable and at ease, allow them to safely express themselves. If they are children, try asking if there is an adult nearby and if so, ask them to go get the adult.
- Low self-esteem. People dealing with trauma can often develop a very negative opinion of themselves. Whether a student or a teacher remember to be kind, give them specific praise about their efforts, and look for ways to change their negative thoughts with examples.
- Unusual behaviors caused by triggers. Your fellow community members may suddenly change moods or become closed in. Try taking a step back, recognize that something that was just said or just happened made them uncomfortable, allow space to change the subject or share an experience but don’t push them to either share or identify the cause, some may not be ready for that.
- Difficulties in class. If you are a teacher you may find your students struggling to concentrate, retain new information, or process your instructions. Try planning shorter activities, reviewing earlier material, giving simple instructions, and above all be patient. As a student, your teacher may seem unorganized or ill-prepared for class. Be patient and understanding.
What else can we do? One thing is to be there for each other. “Perceived support availability” or being there for someone, has been shown to be very beneficial for survivors of trauma. It's important to provide structure and stability to your students (and teachers). Naturally, be very sensitive if you suggest they should seek professional help.
Final Word of Advice - Take Care of Yourself First
When you are helping others deal with trauma, it is always important to first, take care of yourself. Otherwise, you will not be able to care for others!
It's critical to protect yourself from secondary trauma. This is the trauma that occurs to caretakers who are helping people who have been affected by a traumatic event. Secondary trauma is usually a slow, gradual process where a person becomes increasingly anxious, emotionally numb, or depressed. Make sure that you do not become an additional victim.
Keep these in mind:
- Pay close attention to your emotions to try to recognize the symptoms early. Common symptoms include exhaustion, cynicism, inefficiency, difficulties sleeping, and overfocusing on survivor stories.
- Maintain connections with your friends and family and your community. Share and show empathy with one another.
- Be aware when it is time to rest and recover, don’t be ashamed to say “I need to take a break.” As Banksy says, “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”
- Know your boundaries. Understand it is okay to not talk about certain topics or face certain situations. We all have our struggles and our triggers, and it is important to protect ourselves.
We hope some of these suggestions and links are helpful.
Please feel free to write in and make additional suggestions for how we can improve this page. We would love to hear additional tips or experiences that we can share with other users to help make sure they feel supported in the italki community.
For more help and resources, check out the links below:
Podcasts/Videos for mental health: