Time and again when I see and hear the outpouring of sadness and grief in response to the demise of a celebrity or public figure I see and hear an acknowledgement of the importance of being supportive of people in need. Each time it also strikes me how many people fail to realise the importance of providing support to people in need every day or at least when it is needed. The provision of support needs to be focused on the recipient, not the provider.
Very early in my career as a lawyer it occurred to me that if I was to be effective, my clients needed to feel they could be completely candid with me as to how they got themselves into the situation in which they found themselves. A failure to provide that candour would seriously enliven the possibility that I could not only not provide appropriate legal advice, but also we would not be best placed to respond to whatever it was that ultimately confronted the client.
The same can be said for anyone providing medical care of any sort. The patient or client needs to be able to be completely candid with the person providing care for any treatment proposed to be of any utility.
What has struck me often in life is the number of people who contend they are providing assistance or support, yet their involvement seems to be based on their own convenience. The provision of assistance or support involves doing what needs to be done from the point of view of the patient or client, not what is convenient or easiest for the provider.
Contending that a service is available for someone in need, yet when that person in need seeks to utilise the relevant service they discover it is not available can have devastating, perhaps even catastrophic consequences for the person seeking assistance.
Similarly deflating and at times even destructive is recommending that a client or a patient seek assistance or treatment from someone who in the end renders no productive assistance. A constituent part of the relationship between the client or patient and the person providing assistance is a relationship of trust. When a client or a patient shares their history with a view to receiving advice or assistance, they invest in that relationship of trust. If no productive advice or assistance is forthcoming, the patient or client can be discouraged from being so forthcoming in the future. That can have a detrimental effect on their motivation to seek advice or assistance in the future.
Sending an R U OK? text message is not providing real assistance, nor is posting support to social media. Ring people in need, talk to them, spend time with them. Encourage them to feel wanted and worthy. The rewards of so doing are witnessing their positive response and the engagement or interaction in the process.
To paraphrase Albert Camus: Don't walk behind them; they may not lead. Don't walk in front of them; they may not follow. Just walk beside them and be their friend.