Although a lot of improvement has been made in recent times, depression is still a subject that is not spoken about enough. It has a major impact not just on the person suffering from depression, but also those closest to them.
Being able to support someone with depression or other mental illnesses is a difficult thing to do, so here are 11 ways to help someone with depression which I hope helps you.
11 Tips To Help Someone With Depression
- Be a supportive listener. When I first started suffering from depression I felt isolated and alone. I wasn’t alone, but my state of mind didn’t let me believe that I had much going on in the way of support. If you have a friend or loved one suffering from depression, then take the time just to listen to them. You don’t need to offer advice or opinions, you just need to listen and try to show empathy. This will help them to feel more supported and less alone.
- Get educated. Read as much as you can so you can better understand what your friend or loved one is going through. If you are reading this website then you have made a good start. For people who have never suffered from depression it can be a really difficult thing to understand someone who is suffering from it. All you have to relate are times when you have felt sadness or grief, but this is not the same as depression. So do some research and you will be better prepared to help your friend with depression. A great starting place is Dr. Russ Harris’ books or the Destroy Depression system.
- Include them. As mentioned earlier, a lot of depression sufferers will feel isolated and alone and will withdraw themselves from a lot of social activities. It’s important that you let the person know that they are invited to social activities, even if they choose not to attend. It’s also good to make one on one time for your friend, as sometimes dealing with a large number of people at once can be a difficult and confronting thing to do with depression and anxiety.
- Watch out for warning signs. If you are concerned that your friend or loved one is in danger of harming themselves, then it is important that you act immediately. Don’t try to support them through it on your own, it is better to get proper medical help for them. They may be upset with you for doing it, but the most important thing is to keep them safe from themselves, so don’t hesitate if you are concerned.
- Patience is key. It is important to be patient when dealing with someone with depression. At times it will be frustrating as you can feel like you are not getting anywhere with them and there is nothing useful you can do to help. Remember that your support is useful, and just being there to listen and show empathy to them will go a long way towards helping them get back on track.
- Take it seriously. Sometimes it seems like the things your friend is struggling with are easily solved. That can be something like they are struggling to get out of bed of a morning. To a non depression sufferer, this may seem easy to overcome, but to someone with depression it can be a rather large hurdle. Don’t apply yourself to the situation and say that you don’t want to get out of bed, but you solve the problem by just getting up and going about your day. This only belittles the problem and shows that you don’t understand and are not listening properly.
- Start the conversation. Often times the person with depression won’t speak up and discuss what is going on, so you can start the process for them. Simply tell them you’ve noticed they seem to be struggling lately and what is going on/how can I help?
- Help them to get support and treatment. Depression affects a lot of our thinking and ability to do things for ourselves. As a support person, you can offer to make doctors appointments, visit the pharmacy to pick up medication or take the person to their therapy appointments. It is very common for someone with depression to decide not to attend their therapy if they are feeling low, but this is the time when they need it the most so do whatever you can to help make it easier for them to stick to their treatment plan.
- Don’t forget about yourself. It can be easy to direct all of your focus toward helping the person with depression, but it is just as important to remember to look after your own needs. You can’t be available to your friend or loved one 24 hours a day, so make time for them but also set some boundaries. Looking after yourself will put you in a better position to look after others, a little bit like when you are on a plane and they tell you to put your own mask on before helping others with theirs.
- Don’t take it personally. A lot of the time you will feel like you are doing everything you can to help but nothing seems to be helping. This is not your fault. Their actions and moods are not because of you. Being a successful support person means you are there for them and are there to listen and support. It doesn’t mean that you can change anything that is going on for them. Plenty of depression sufferers have therapists that don’t seem to be able to help them, so don’t take it personally when it feels like you don’t seem to be able to help.
- Don’t try to fix them. It can be easy to offer advice to your friend, such as telling them to exercise more or eat better or not to be so down. You don’t tell a cancer patient not to have cancer, or someone with a broken bone not to have it, so don’t tell someone with depression not to feel down. Feeling down is part of depression, and often the last thing they need to hear is your advice on the matter. So focus on listening empathetically and avoid giving advice unless they actually ask for it.
It is a difficult task being a support person to someone with mental illness, but the key thing to remember is supportive listening and empathy, in all things you do for them. You may not be able to understand exactly what they are going through, but being able to empathize is key.
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