Psychology

Four Ways Empathy Can Be Your Mental Health Superpower

I spent my 20s chasing my dreams across the country: graduating from college in California, planting in Chicago for my first big job, and taking off to New York City for graduate school in hopes of unlocking the tools to build a kinder world. In my cross-country adventure, I learned a lot about myself: how to build and re-build, how to be okay alone, and how to show up for the people in my life in new ways.

In the years that took me coast-to-coast, I accumulated a roster of long-distance best friends. With every new city, my web of text messages about life, love, and challenges grew larger and more complicated. Communicating with some of my favorite people with the tools at our fingertips, no matter how many miles or times zones separated us, many of us grew together while physically apart. 

In my years growing long-distance relationships, I learned that the key to showing up for the people in my life was simply leading with empathy in kindness; being there to listen to their challenges, validate their struggles, and celebrate their wins (even via text message). Somehow in my dream-chasing, I manifested a career that allows me to show up for people with empathy and kindness using a tool I’ve come to love so much: text message.

As a member of the Communications team at Crisis Text Line, I’m also a volunteer Crisis Counselor. As a Crisis Counselor, instead of texting with my friends through their trials and tribulations, I get to be there for complete strangers who need someone to talk to through some of their darkest moments. 

At Crisis Text Line, we know that a little empathy goes a long way for someone who feels alone in the world. That’s why, for World Mental Health Day, instead of dwelling on devastating statistics about people in crisis, we’re highlighting empathy (a superpower everyone has to help people in need). Here are four ways you can lead with kindness and empathy every single day. The world deserves it—and so do you.

  1. Check-in. We live in a world that is go, go, go. Even scrolling through social media, we rarely give the people in our lives our full attention. Disconnect from the rest of the world so you can reconnect with the people who matter to you. Reaching out for help takes serious bravery. Instead of waiting for your friends to ask for help, take the lead and tell them that you’re thinking about. A simple “hey, you good?” can go a long way.
  2. Validate. Not every problem needs an immediate solution. More often than not, simply listening and validating can be a total game-changer. This certainly goes for your friends and family, and make sure to validate yourself, too. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is absolutely essential to show up for the rest of the people in your life. 
  3. Share resources. Nobody has all the answers. And, honestly, you shouldn’t have to! We’re here for anyone, anytime, whenever they are in crisis. Sometimes, leading with empathy means helping people connect with the support they need. Anyone in crisis can text HOME to 74141 from anywhere in the US to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
  4. Become an Empathy MVP. Showing up for your community is so important. Take your empathy to the next level and show up for strangers in need all over the country. As a Crisis Counselor, you can experience the transformative power of empathy in the moments that it takes to help move a texter from a hot moment to cool and calm. Apply to be a Crisis Counselor today. You won’t regret it. 

Say what you will about modern technology, but one of the greatest things about living in the digital world is keeping the people near and dear to my heart at my fingertips. I live for the moments I get to connect with the people who contemplate life, who don’t ask if they can vent and instead just trust you enough to do it, who pick up your call first thing in the morning because you’ve just had a big life revelation, or who take one look at you on FaceTime and follow up with: “You look like crap. I’m Seamlessing you matzo ball soup.”

I love showing up for the people in my life with empathy in the ways that so many of them have shown up for me. And, now whenever my friends across the country are struggling, I have an even better answer: “I know you know I’m always here if you need help. I also know that reaching out for help can be harder than it seems. So, just in case, save 741741 in your phone. Word on the street is they’re good in a crisis.”

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About the author
Helping texters move from a hot moment to cool and calm. Follow Laurel on Instagram or read more articles from Laurel on Thought Catalog.

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