Printer Friendly

Asking for a Friend: What to do if you're worried about a fellow dancer.

When it comes to mental health, dancers are the ones on the frontlines trying to support each other. Many find themselves routinely confronted with concerns for their friends. Maybe it's the dancer down the barre who you know is cutting, or the partner who only speaks about himself with disparagement and disgust.

According to Dr. Sharon Chirban, a sports psychologist who works with dancers at Boston Ballet, it is normal for peers to seek each other out when dealing with mental health issues. Yet many are unsure of what to do when a friend approaches them. Keep these five actions in mind the next time you need to help a fellow dancer.

Listen Without Judgment

Don't feel like you should play the role of a mental health professional, warns Dr. Leigh Skvarla, a counselor who works with athletes and performing artists in Pittsburgh. "Don't try to 'solve' the situation. Rather, listen to what they are saying," she says. "Sometimes people don't need you to give them solutions. They will benefit from you sitting with them and acknowledging that they're struggling."

Don't Agree to Be Off-the-Record

Skvarla warns against promising to keep the conversation secret. "This not only isolates your friend, but can make you feel alone with their challenge too."

Take the Initiative If Needed

If you notice that a fellow dancer is clearly suffering without support, talk with them. "Don't assume that they will get help by themselves," says Skvarla. Observations should be the foundation of your message. "I-statements work well," she says, "such as saying: 'I noticed that you didn't show up for class for the past two days. Are you okay?' "

Ask for Backup

If your friend's behavior has not improved, they may need more help than you can offer. "Take the question you might have about someone's well-being, even anonymously, to the person who you think is the most sensitive to the health of the dancer," advises Chirban. This is often a parent, but it may be a teacher or artistic staff member.

Know that your friend might initially be hurt. "It is possible that they will be angry," says Skvarla, "and that is valid." Being "outed" can cause embarrassment or shame. But remember that in the long-term, your friend will most likely be grateful.

Don't Forget Self-Care

While your friend is struggling, it is possible that you will as well--it's an emotional burden to feel responsible for someone else's well-being. "On an airplane, the flight attendant will remind you to put your oxygen mask on first before you help others. The same principle applies," says Skvarla. "Taking care of yourself is critical." Carve out time to meditate if it helps you, connect with other friends or seek quiet time for yourself.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE ...

When my parents told me that my friends had spoken to them about my depression, I felt nothing but a burning betrayal. I had trusted them with my deepest insecurities and they had ratted me out as some kind of crazy person! But these are not rational thoughts. My friends' action may have saved my life. Through counseling I was able to get back to being myself, and to friendship with two people who clearly loved me so much that they would risk losing me to save me. I can tell you that there is no deeper kind of love.

RED FLAGS

How do you know if a friend's problem warrants an evaluation with a mental health professional? Dr. Leigh Skvarla suggests looking out for changes in your friend's personality or emotional expression, including the following:

* shutting down when they were previously open about their mood

* behaving as if everything is fantastic

* believing that nobody likes them

* changes in sleep habits

* changes in nutrition and weight

* social withdrawal

* self-harm

* illegal drug use

* making distressing or hopeless comments

* feeling sad for two weeks or more
COPYRIGHT 2018 Dance Magazine, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:FOCUS: MENTAL HEALTH
Author:McGuire, Kathleen
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2018
Words:644
Previous Article:Let's Talk About Mental Illness: It's time to erase the taboos surrounding this all-too-common experience for dancers.
Next Article:The Experts Sound Off.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters