How to Help a Depressed Person
It takes a lot of strength to make yourself available to someone with depression. Here are some tips on how to get through difficult times.
I. Don’t try to Fix them and don’t try to give Advice every Step of the Way.
I know it might be tempting, but you need to understand that they’re in a different state of mind than you are. Things that seem obvious to you might be difficult for them. Depression is a health issue, not something that can be resolved in a day, through popping a pill or going out for a run. Instead, you can provide a healthy perspective when they’re feeling lost and drowning in sorrow. Unfortunately, negative thoughts can get out of control quickly and take over your entire existence if no one is there to provide some objectivity.
That being said, you can try to gently encourage them on two levels. First of all – continue suggesting therapy, or getting any kind of professional help. Taking that first step isn’t easy, so do your best to be supportive and let them know that reaching out for help is nothing to be ashamed of.
II. The other Gentle Encouragement Revolves around Daily Activities.
instead of giving depressed people “should”, like – “you should go to the gym”, suggest going for a run together or cooking a nice, healthy meal together. Don’t get discouraged if they seem apathetic and don’t always respond to your suggestions with joy.
Don’t give up on them after the first try. You really shouldn’t take their lack of enthusiasm personally, it’s not about you. It’s the depression talking. Celebrate the small wins, like getting out of bed, going for a walk or cooking a healthy meal. In the darkest of times, even these little daily activities can be hard, so make sure you’re vocal about how proud you are!
III. Create a Space to Listen.
Very often people who are depressed don’t really want advice, they just want someone to talk to. In fact, a simple conversation might be too much for them sometimes, but if you just sit down next to them and make yourself available, you’ll make them feel less alone and confirm that their emotions are valid. This is absolutely priceless.
IV. Prepare for No Contact and Unpredictability.
There might be a lot of cancelling and missed calls. Again, it’s not about you, it’s their depression. Make sure that you don’t enable toxic behaviour though. If you start getting cancelled on 50% of the time without being warned early, it’s not exactly fair to you either. Set up some boundaries. Your depressed friends or loved ones will actually benefit from that as well.
Make sure you take time to highlight all the good parts of their personality and remind them who they truly are when not debilitated by a mental health issue. Show appreciation for their sense of humour, for how loving they are, all the talents they have. Remind them of their hobbies every now and then – make sure they know that depression doesn’t define them.
Last but not least, your mental health is just as important. There will be times when you find yourself emotionally drained. Don’t feel guilty for stepping back and taking care of yourself. You need to recharge in order to be able to continue supporting your loved ones.