About 9 years ago someone who had suffered from major depression told me the best thing that anyone could tell him during his worst time was that, “you’re not always going to feel this way.” It made sense to me, providing someone with hope for their future encouraged him to think beyond the horrible feelings in the moment. This has stuck with me for a long time because sometimes it’s the simple things that we say and do that can have the most impact on an individual. There can be an internal pressure when talking to someone who is suffering to say or do the “perfect” thing. I’ve learned when it comes to depression the simple things can matter the most. Here are some ways to support someone who is depressed:
Listen: Simply asking how the person is doing and then listening to hear what they have to say is very important. Keep in mind the person may not want anything more than an ear, so be careful with giving unsolicited advice. Simple validation of feelings can go a long way.
Offer Help: Keep in mind a person going through depression may feel overwhelmed if you ask them too many questions. An example of taking the pressure off of the person would be “I’d love to help you if there is anything that would make your life easier right now.” You’re basically telling the person I’m here for you if you need me, no pressure. Keep in mind help can look differently for everyone. One person may want help with making an appointment and another might need someone to just sit with them.
Offer Suggestions: Offer to engage in activities they typically would like to do. Never underestimate the importance of a good time or a smile. The key here is to offer and not push.
Respect Boundaries: This is for all the people fixers out there: YOU CAN’T SAVE EVERYONE. Unfortunately, not everyone who is depressed will want to accept help. As difficult as this may be, offering help may be as far as it goes sometimes. Don’t lose hope because a person may not accept your help in the moment. Simply saying you’re there if needed can provide comfort and the person may reach back out to you when they’re ready.
Educate Yourself on Depression: Read to understand what the person is experiencing. For example, irritability is a symptom of depression commonly seen in children/teens. This knowledge can help you take their words less personally and increase awareness that this could be a symptom they’re experiencing. There are also many serious risks and warning signs associated with depression, awareness can save a life. Reach out to a professional for help if you need assistance with understanding these risks.
Hope: Living with depression stinks. Getting stuck on bad feelings with some added low motivation make it difficult to break. For many, depression can get better and people go on to have better days ahead.
Accept Them: Many people experiencing depression feel guilt towards the those who support them. “Am I being a burden?” “Would they be better off without me?” Showing unconditional love and support is important, for example, telling someone “I care about you” “You mean a lot to me." Supporting someone with depression can be frustrating at times, you’re human and it’s okay to admit this! Just make sure if your frustration gets the best of you, you let the person know it’s not them it’s the depression. Don’t give up on them!
Make Sure to Take Care of Your Own Needs: You can’t be there for someone else without taking care of yourself first. It doesn’t make you a bad person to keep your own mental health intact.
Whether you’re currently suffering from depression or know a loved one who is, I’m glad you’re reading this blog and considering help. It’s not easy all around. No matter how old or how severely depressed you are, things can get better. Counseling is a great way to learn how to manage your feelings/symptoms of depression.
Also, if you’re reading this and have overcome depression yourself, what was a helpful way someone supported you? Let me know, I’ll add it to this list! I don’t know everything!