Depression is really hard to explain. It pushes you inside yourself but is extremely hard to fight all alone; which is why there are help groups and support communities growing all over the world.
Depression makes every day hard, that without seeking the help from those around us, it can be impossible to deal with. A lot of people suffer from depression around you and it is more prevalent and dangerous than you can imagine.
Psychologist Selena C. Snow, PhD, says, “[A] depressed person has an opportunity to learn that they are not the only one suffering in silence as they gain support and empathy from others who understand the depths of their pain. And they benefit from the encouragement of peers to take small steps forward.”
If you are fortunate enough to never have suffered from depression, you may not be sure about how to go about making a person who is depressed feel wanted, comforted and loved.
If you find yourself being the support system of a close one who is suffering from depression, here are 8 ways that can help you make them feel good about themselves.
1. Don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist
Pretending like depression is not real is like not addressing the elephant in the room. If you try to force all mentions of it away, it will not go away; it’ll just loom over the both of you, sucking away all your efforts like a black hole. So, the first step is to recognize what the person is feeling; giving it a name. When you acknowledge the fact that they’re depressed, and appreciate the strength it takes them to ask for help, half the battle is won.
2. Don’t try to ‘fix’ depression
Before being the support system for someone with depression, you should know what depression is. If someone is suffering from depression, they’re not broken or damaged. They’re dealing with a simple but serious mental illness that has its own treatment and rules. Just like if your friend had a broken leg, you wouldn’t try to heal it but make them feel better, and the same goes for depression. Don’t try to cure depression yourself, but instead try to be there for the person when they go through the treatment for curing it instead.
3. Too much positivity is a no
Too much of nothing is great. There is a big distinction between being sad and being depressed. Trying to be optimistic is great. Be a positive influence in their lives but don’t drown them in unreasonable optimism. This tends to backfire because depression is an inability to feel positive – they cannot control the negativity. When you force too much optimism on such a person, the inability to be happy pushes them further into depression.
4. Let them do the talking
Being there for someone who is depressed is not as much about being clever and funny as it is about being a patient listener to all their fears and insecurities, hopes and dreams. Even when they’re saying something negative, don’t stop them because they need to get it out of their system.
“Don’t avoid the person because you can’t think of something clever to say – someone who can listen is valuable. Sometimes just being there with them is valuable, so don’t put pressure on them to have something to say either. Make it clear that you want them to feel free to talk about anything that’s on their mind – but only when they feel able to,” says psychiatrist Michael Simpson.
5. Validation is important
Everyone wants and deserves a certain degree of acknowledgement and validation. Even when they’re feeling things they can’t explain, or they seem absurd to you, recognize their feelings and help them understand it is okay to feel how they are feeling. Emotions in themselves aren’t dangerous. How we act on them is what makes them negative or positive. So encourage them to feel and validate the feelings.
6. Be supportive
This cannot be reiterated enough. It is very hard to ask for help, to reach out and tell someone to be there for you. If someone has asked for your help, make sure you give it. Be supportive and caring and that can make all the difference. Psychiatrist and author Dr. Gail Saltz says, “Most people’s reaction—it isn’t conscious—is to pull away, get away… Know that you can talk to them without feeling what they feel. You can do a great service by reaching out. You don’t have to imagine what it feels like.”
7. Push them to go out
Depression means you automatically want to stay in and lie in bed. Encouraging your friends to go out with you, to places they’ll be safe, happy and comfortable, it can do wonders. There is simply just no alternative to going out to help with depression. It is also amazing for them to realize you’re willing to hang out with them even when they’re depressed.
8. But know where to draw the line
While support is important, you must not forget about yourself in the process. Don’t help your friends and family at you own expense. Make sure you draw clear boundaries and clarify them. If you end up being overwhelmed yourself, you’re no good to anyone. Don’t treat a depressed person like an invalid. They’re capable of understanding you mental and physical well-being, so don’t let them take you for granted.
“Taking care of someone with depression can be a lot to take on. It’s important that you set aside time for yourself. Do things you enjoy. Get out of the house every now and then. Take walks, or go to the gym. Hang out with friends. You may feel guilty for thinking about yourself. But if you don’t, you’ll burn out — and that won’t help either of you,” adds WebMD.
Depression is not an easy thing to deal with. It’s not easy to deal with it, but it’s not impossible. Just honor their wishes and be supportive and that can be enough to help them get through the day.
Depression is a serious thing that affects many people. You may never have experienced it, but you may have friends and family who have. If this ever happens, it’s important to know exactly how you can help them and continue to honor them as a person. You may not be able to fix their depression, but you’ll be able to help and support them when they need it.