I am about to head into a high school classroom to talk about suicide. The training through Living Works takes the participants through the steps of Tuning In, Asking if someone is having thoughts of suicide, Stating that this is important and Connecting them to someone who can help. Several things run through my mind as I prepare to deliver this training to a group of high school students, whom I have never met. The importance of the topic, my personal connection to it, my training and abilities as a facilitator, how mentally and emotionally worn out I will be afterward, the impact of the training on people I will never know and how in the midst of all of this, relationships matter.
We are created to be in relationships with one another, we are inherently social creatures born with a desire to belong.
A quick Google search will enumerate the many benefits of being in close relationship with others:
- emotional and mental health
- physical wellbeing
- ability to develop and grow
- sharing joy
- accomplishing things together
- struggling through adversity
The list is truly endless.
There are benefits for young people and adults alike, across cultures, generations and genders. Just ask your friends or family (that you have a list of people to ask tells me you are in relationship with others 😊) just ask them, or the stranger next to you as you are reading this, what is important to them or what they like to do or what they are looking forward to this month? Pretty much can guarantee you will hear something that involves spending time with someone. Relationships matter.
Studies are showing an interesting range of statistics around relationships.
- One says on average individuals have 3 – 5 close friends, another says 16.
- Apparently we start losing friendships starting at age 25
- And most friendships last 7 years.
This does not consider romantic relationship statistics. Depending on what you read, romantic relationships are either the glue that holds society together or are doomed all together.
Relationship can be hard. In a time period when we more connected than ever we are also disconnected. Distracted by and contentious about so many things. The ease at which we judge, comment, dismiss others is disturbing.
Again, ask a friend or family member or maybe the stranger next to you is best…if relationships are easy. Why can something so important also be hard? Because it matters. If relationships came easy they would not provide a space for us to grow and learn. Where would there be a space to understand ourselves and others on a deeper level? If relationships were easy, they would not possess all the inherent benefits built into having a sense of connection. When we look at the struggles, the joys, the highs the lows, how we navigate life is heavily influenced by our relationships.
Of the many things contributing to a healthy relationship, three are key: listening, empathy and conflict resolution. (Sign up for one of our next upcoming workshops to learn more.)
When I head into that classroom in a few minutes my ability to create a space with a group of young people where we can talk about tough things is crucial. I essentially have to create relationalship (made that word up) instantly. I have to be able to relate to them, listen, share vulnerably, empathize with their experience. Without that relational space they will not be able to hear my message of suicide awareness, or any other message I might bring. It is through creating positive relationship I can help them help others. I can help them have the type of relationship where they are courageous enough to ask if a friend or family member is struggling. In a world where we are seeking to belong I can teach them the value of tuning into the experience of another. I can instill confidence in them to help someone in need connect to resources to help them through a struggle. Because this is important.
Relationships matter. Because people matter.