“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
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
This week I have been thinking about FAQ’s. I often get asked “What should I be doing for my sister, friend, mother, father, brother, husband, wife etc, I don’t want to say or do the wrong thing”. I felt it appropriate to compile a list of things that do and don’t help when you are supporting someone with Depression.
Listen without judgement this allows them a place to be free to feel whatever they are feeling.
Let them know your there even if you can’t be there in person. A text message, sending a positive picture all lets people know you are there without being there.
Help them get the support and information that they need.
Ask what they need.
Bring them into nature this helps for many people.
Watch comedy and anything that may offer an escape even for a short time.
Offer hope for the future.
Offer your experience of Depression, and what worked for you if you have been through a similar experience. “I have been through this and medication and therapy worked for me, your not alone”. This helps the person feel less isolated.
Try to have patience and compassion
Tell them they are important to you and you are here to support them.
Describe how this feels for you using “I feel” statements. You are not expected not to be impacted by what is happening.
Encourage them to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Small Gestures; like doing laundry, picking up the kids from school, buying flowers ensuring not to take away all independence when they are recovering.
Encourage social outings but do not push the boundary that they may have about social outings. People who are Depressed can often feel guilt and shame if they do not meet your expectations.
Have realistic expectations of the person and yourself. They are going through something that is quite difficult at the moment and what may be realistic for you may not be what they expect. For someone with Depression getting dressed can be a difficult task on any given day. Ask what they would like to do for themselves in a non judgemental way, communication is very important at this time. Expectations for yourself include understanding that you can’t be there 24 hours a day 7 days a week set realistic boundaries for yourself and communicate this to the person who is Depressed.
Take care of you. Remembering the air hostess asking you to secure your own mask before helping someone else.
Have your own support system, you may want to talk to a therapist, GP or trusted friend.
Expect too much.
Take it personally. It is difficult at times not to take it personally but this person needs you more than ever.
Neglect yourself it is so important to give yourself some time.
Offer solutions to their Depression everyone has their Depression. This may seem like the right thing to do and often comes from a place of love and concern but this may not help the person dealing with Depression. Family members often say things like “if they just went back to work or had a routine”. This can overwhelm the person and put even more pressure on them.
Fall off the radar without talking to the person. Talk to them first tell them you are finding it difficult right now to support them. Often people feel this way when there isnt enough resources available to the person help them connect with services or other people. You can feel very responsible when others could help with supporting this person too.
Be afraid to ask if they are feeling suicidal. See my post on Suicide and Depression.
Say phrases like “snap out of it” “look on the bright side” “don’t cry”. When these phrases are used the person may feel much shame and anxiety because they are feeling this way.
Don’t minimise what is happening for them. We all know what its like to be physically sick and someone saying “sure it’s not that bad”, “I know what it’s like for you I had a bad day a few weeks ago”, or “there are people who are worse off than you”. Empathising is important and I do understand that at times this may be difficult. use phrases like “I know thngs are hard for you right now”