“If you know someone who’s depressed…Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
― Stephen Fry
Depression is a tricky disorder.
When one is depressed, it is not the same as being sad or disappointed.
Feeling sad is a natural ephemeral reaction to situations that cause emotional pain or upset. Depression, on the other hand, is a longer-term mental health problem.
When people feel depressed, they usually feel hopeless, down, angry, sad, or really bad about themselves and they are more likely to put themselves in more dangerous or riskier situations.
As a person who has survived the effects of mental illness, I can speak from experience what it feels like. It has been quite a few years since, but I can remember being in that state of severe depression as if it were yesterday.
I would wake up feeling numb, tired, inadequate, and worthless throughout the day. I wasn’t particularly suicidal… However, I did not want to feel anything, be anything or care if anything happened to me. This feeling lingered and dragged on for many, many months.
I knew that feeling like this all of the time was not right and I checked myself into therapy. I went through a year of therapy, learned a lot of lessons for coping with depression, and am in a way better emotional state today. Through my experiences, I believe I can offer some helpful insight into supporting a loved one or friend who is going through depression.
You may have a family member or friend who is struggling with poor mental health right now who would love your help.
Here are my tips to support loved ones who are going through depression.
Be Their Blanket
When you have loved ones or friends going through depression, they are probably being really hard on themselves. Now is not the time to be cruel with the intention of being kind. In other words, to try to care for them while remaining unsympathetic and tough.
Instead, be gentle with them and be a lending ear.
This means that you listen to them pour their hearts out without judgment. Attentively listen to them while they are vulnerable, open up to you or even cry. Hear their potentially dysfunctional thoughts, be patient and acknowledge everything they are saying. One of the most unwelcoming things you can do is to be impatient, lose your temper, be annoyed, and insist that what they are saying is incorrect. Just be present and hear them vent. Give them your time.
Don’t take it personally if you reach out to them and they are not ready to talk. You don’t know what is going on in their head, so don’t take it as an attack on yourself if they are not responsive to your attempts to communicate or if they act ambivalently towards you.
It is nice to just let them know that you will be there for them.
Lightly Encourage Them to Seek Proper Professional Help
As I mentioned before, I spent a solid year in therapy to help me overcome my depression. I learned a lot in that year. Therapy has taught me so many techniques to calm down the inner self-critic and to alter my dysfunctional ways of thinking if they are causing me to be unhappy.
I would recommend that everybody invest in themselves and learn the tools I acquired in therapy, especially if they are struggling with depression. Encouraging your loved ones or friends to seek proper professional help has to be done very delicately.
Seeking professional mental health help can be tough to suggest to people. They can easily misinterpret your suggestion and feel attacked if it is recommended in the wrong way!
Some helpful advice for proposing professional mental health services to loved ones or friends is to pick a good time to talk to them about it and frame the suggestion in a way that they do not feel like they are being attacked. First, do not offer the suggestion in a crowded place or in a place surrounded by other friends or family. Instead, suggest it to them in a private setting where they will not feel embarrassed or ashamed for talking about their struggles. Also, try to pick a time that works with both of your schedules too so each person can give their undivided attention to the conversation. Nothing could be worse than rushing through the conversation and the other person just apathetically replying “sure, I’ll think about it”.
What could also be helpful would be to suggest a therapy clinic or helping them take the first few baby steps to get started. You could try adding:
“Hey, if you want, I can call and set up the first session. Maybe after you could do a few sessions and if you are not feeling it, you can stop. No harm in giving it a shot”
They could really appreciate you helping them make it as easy as possible to get started. Again, they may not be ready for someone else suggesting to them professional mental health services. Or they may not be inclined to accept your help.
Do the best you can to suggest it in a non-attacking manner and don’t take it so personally how they respond.
Give Them Space If They Need It
Giving loved ones space when they are struggling with depression can be difficult. If we know they are struggling, our first impulse is to find out what is wrong so we can help them fix it!
Sometimes people need some space. One of the worst things you can do is to think of their depression as an everyday sadness situation. Constantly telling them to “just snap out of it” will probably make them annoyed.
After being depressed, I know just how much that mental illness can consume you. The dark melancholic emotional state lingers and one does not have the motivation to do anything.
Take a step back.
Give them some space.
Stop asking them what is wrong if they don’t want to talk about it. Stop pushing them to exercise or to eat healthier.
Simply exercising or eating healthily will not easily cure depression. Sure, eating right and exercising has been proven to help but constantly meddling in people’s lives may irritate them and make them less prone to open up or discuss what they are going through.
Sometimes they just need someone to be their anchor or a person they use to keep themselves in a grounded or calm state when things are not going well.
Here’s to Helping a Loved One
As I mentioned before, depression is a tricky mental illness.
Each person experiences depression differently and there is a large spectrum for being depressed. Some simply have it worse than others. From my own experience, the best thing you can do to support your loved ones with depression is to let them know you will be there for them no matter what and to give them space if they need it.
If a loved one is suicidal or just needs someone to talk to at any time of day or night, please refer him or her to the suicide hotline. The suicide hotline can help prevent suicide by offering 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis.
Depression is an overwhelming emotional state and I really do hope your loved one’s feelings of gloom pass.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Brandon Leuangpaseuth is a writer from San Diego, CA who helps various sex crimes attorneys across the country with their public relations. You can connect with him on LinkedIn @bleuangpaseuth.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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2 thoughts on “How To Support Someone Who is Struggling with Depression”
So many people struggle with depression. They need to reconnect with themselves, don’t you think? I think that is the key. Thanks for sharing the valuable information with us.
Thanks for the reminder to give them space. My sister is looking for a counselor to help with your depression. I’ll keep your tips in mind as I try to support her.