My favorite quote from the movie Patch Adams when talking about his time in the psych ward:
"How did they help you?"
"The doctors didn't help me. The patients did."
He also mentioned that by helping others, he learned how to deal with his own issues and got better. For those unfamiliar with the movie, he ended up going to med school, reaching out to patients with humor and went on to become a successful doctor helping patients unconventionally. He helped those without insurance, that regular hospitals couldn't help. The movie is based on a true story.
Helping others always, always helps me. I spend a lot of time in chat helping people, giving the way I was given and while not everyone is receptive, a lot have been and have been better for it.
Distraction of any kind is a good thing and when you give to another person, you are in turn healing a part of yourself. If you can see outside of yourself and give to someone else in the midst of your own pain, you grow substantially as a person.
I'm always hearing and reading people saying "well I don't know how to help, I'm too messed up myself." Quite frankly, that's bull. A kind word of understanding, more often than not, goes much further than any advice you can give someone. You don't need a degree in psychology or sociology to understand a person's pain and let them know you understand and are there. A smile when someone has lost hope, a gentle touch of understanding and compassion or a gentle hug mean far more to someone than telling them what they should do or where they should go.
We can all do something, if we try. We have all needed understanding at one time or another and if we can look into our pasts and remember how alone we once felt, we will see just what kind of a difference we can all make.