The internet is full of things to not do to a depressed person – but how do you help a depressed loved one? While browsing around online, I found this: The 10 Stupidest Things to say to a Depressed Person. I had a look over and agreed with all the points, so I shared it on my facebook page. In less than an hour I had received 2 questions over what were good things to do and say to help a depressed person. So I came up with this. Written for the person who is trying to help someone they care about with depression, I hope these suggestions are practical enough to give you something you can actually do to help a depressed loved one.
To help a depressed person
Just asking for help when you’re depressed is terrifying sometimes. The thought that you’re imposing on someone else – no matter how many times they say otherwise – is too much. Or you’re convinced it’s something silly and asking for help is a waste of their time. Be aware of this and don’t just offer to help when they need it – chances are they’ll never actually ask for help.
Do, however, ask them for help when you need it. The last thing they need is to feel like they’re being treated differently. Also, being needed by someone else can give you purpose. Having children who need me has certainly helped me.
Do take it seriously – don’t try to pretend it’s not there. But don’t walk on eggshells around them. It’s a difficult tight-rope to walk, but basically, acknowledge that they are ill, remind them it IS an illness and not their fault, but otherwise treat them normally.
Ask about specific issues
Ask them straight out what you can do to help with their depression – not just jobs around the house or anything, but specifically about depression. I found it increasingly difficult to leave the house, for instance, and having someone who would come over and go out with me really helped. So see if their depression is affecting anything specific, and offer to help with that. Also, when offering to help, try to make it organised. Say they has a problem with housework – another thing I found very hard to do (most specifically the vacuuming) – then arrange to go over regularly on a set day/time to help just with that. That way you’re not waiting for them to ask, you can fit it in around your normal life, and you know they’re being helped regularly. It will also help them as it will become normal, and they wont feel like they’re being a burden on you.
If you do ask, and they tell you something, they will definitely need help with this (it’s very hard to admit you need help with something, so if they do admit to something it’s important to them). Therefore, make sure you do help them with that thing, otherwise they could end up feeling abandoned and even worse.
Just talking can help
Try asking why they’re depressed – sometimes just talking about it can help. Also, it can give you insights into how to help, or what not to joke about. They may not have a specific reason – I get depressed simply because I feel that society is forcing me to be and do things I don’t like. But even then being able to talk about it is useful. It may take a while before they feel confident enough to talk about it, so don’t push, just be open and listen.
Just going over regularly and talking, having a cup of tea and listening, may be one of the easiest and most effective things you can do. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, just the simple fact that you care and come over regularly can be enough. It helps to prevent the feelings of isolation and abandonment that come with depression. Oh, and make sure you listen in full – if they start to talk about why they’re depressed, or just venting in general, let them finish before suggesting possible solutions. Dont interrupt them, and don’t try to say they’re wrong. You my not agree with them, but what they feel isn’t wrong, as its true to them. And don’t make jokes if they’re talking about their depression. It can make them feel like you don’t care or don’t take them seriously. When you’re depressed you’re surprisingly sensitive – probably because you’re so hard on yourself, so if anyone upsets you it just confirms how worthless you are.
Understanding their depression will be hard – everyone is different, and depression is a very complicated illness. But just be supportive and feel free to ask questions if you don’t understand something. I find it really useful to think about why something could be bad or upsetting. It might not change it, but it feels good to have someone take you seriously and try to understand.
Honesty is Super Important
Be honest with them – tell them if you feel upset when she doesn’t ask for help and then complains about it. But try not to be accusing about it. Just share how it hurts you, and then ask what you can both do together to try to resolve this. It may be agreeing you’ll come over once a week or a fortnight to help out, and having an unrelated monthly meal/chat together. Try to arrange a way where you can just be there for them, and be honest about how much you care about them and how much you actually do want to help them. And don’t forget to tell them if you need help with something. When you’re feeling worthless being told that someone needs you is really helpful.
Remember – they are ill
It’s hard, but try to be patient with them too. Remind yourself that they’re ill, truly ill, and not acting like themselves anymore. Give them space if they want it, and give them comfort when they want it. Don’t push them too hard, just be there and stay in contact with them. Giving them a phone call every saturday morning and just chatting about your week could help.
Has they gone to the doctors? They can help: anti-depressants can help some people, and they can get counselling on the NHS for 8 (ish) sessions. The doctors also reassure that it is an illness – just that can help a lot.
Don’t forget yourself, and try to have fun
Look after yourself as well – don’t make everything about their depression and make sure you still do things which you enjoy and keep yourself healthy. And finally, try to include them in fun things like you would normally. Play a game of cards or something when you visit, chat about life and share silly or funny things which have happened to you. Dont be serious all the time.
What would you do?
There you have it – my suggestions on what you can do to help a depressed friend or loved one. Do you have any other ideas or suggestions on how to help a depressed person? Please share them below, as depression can affect everyone at some point in their lives.