This post is part of our #MentalHealthWeek series on empathy and suicide prevention. To view the entire series, click here.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the feelings of another. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just our own.
Empathy is also different from sympathy or compassion. Sympathy is when we feel pity, or sorrow, for someone else, and compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering of others, with a desire to alleviate that suffering.
Empathy allows us to connect to the feelings of another and sit with those feelings, even if they are uncomfortable. Often, this type of connection and recognition of feelings and experiences, even without problem solving or giving advice, is the support that someone needs.
Did you know that there are different types of empathy? Four types of empathy that are commonly discussed are:
- Cognitive empathy involves being able to understand another person’s mental state and what they might be thinking in response to a situation.
- Emotional empathy involves sharing an emotional experience with another person, such as feeling distress in response to someone’s pain and experiencing a willingness to help someone.
- Affective empathy involves the ability to understand another person’s emotions and respond appropriately.
- Somatic empathy involves have a type of physical reaction in response to what someone else is experience. For example, when you see someone feeling embarrassed, you may also start to blush or have an upset stomach.
(Source: What Is Empathy? (verywellmind.com))
These types of empathy are interconnected, though we may find that we practice one form of empathy over another more often. Later this week, we will share the specific ways that empathy can help to prevent and reduce the impact of suicide in our community. In the meantime, check out the resources below for further learning.
Resources for further learning: