How can I help someone who is going through depression?

Stop saying bullshit!Β That was the title of this article when I first tried writing it a few months ago. I am glad I did not write it, it would have been a very bad one. Supporting someone through depression is not an easy task.

  • Depression is an umbrella term that we use in today’s vocabulary, it can mean that we just had a bad day or something more complex and not summarizable in one sentence. So without knowing what exactly the person is going through, it is very easy to give them the wrong advice
  • People going through depression can be very irritable and can be difficult to approach.
  • There can be a tendency to be reclusive and cut down contacts when you are trying to help.
  • It can be so hard to realize a loved one is going through depression because people can go out of their way to show that they are doing okay.

I have always wondered why people were telling me the wrong things and used to strongly believe that if I ever had to support someone through it I would do a very good job of it. But now that the tables have turned, I realize how challenging a task that is! I have found myself saying unhelpful things and trying to problem solve when all they might be looking for is a person listening to them without judgment. A few months ago I started a local depression support group, it was an impulsive decision, which in general is the story of my life. Maybe some of you remember, since I wrote about it back then, you can read it here.

Luckily now I have two co-organizers and we try our best to fight our impulse to overwhelm people with suggestions and advice and we encourage each other to pause and think about how the things we say can have an effect on the person. Supporting is not a substitute for therapy or medication but it can do wonders in the recovery journey of a person. We have been discussing things that have helped all of us in our recovery journey and the following things come up very often.

 

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Not always obvious you know

 

 

Ways to help

  • It is not about us, it is not that WE should help them, it is that they should get help in any possible way. So if our role involves guiding them to someone else, please do not hesitate. This involves recommending them to consult a therapist or reaching for emergency services if the situation demands it. Their health is the priority here. Period.
  • Sometimes help is letting them vent.
  • Hugs- This is not universal. Not everyone wants to be touched. So talk to them and see if they would like that. I for one would have really liked to be hugged a lot more.
  • Try to be kinder than you have to be- Because a person might seem completely fine on the outside but we can never know what is going on inside them if they don’t want us to know.
  • Try not to assume that you know what they are feeling- Every person is different and there might be a lot of reasons contributing to the depression that they are experiencing, so phrases like ‘I know exactly how you are feeling’ might not be of help
  • Ask them questions- This is very helpful. We all have that instinct to problem solve and a depressed person get offered a lot of suggestions on a daily basis which might not be always helpful. Asking questions show that you care and you are taking the time to know what they are going through. But, it doesn’t mean to overwhelm them with harmful ‘Why are depressed?’ sort of questions but questions like How are you today? Have you been sleeping well? Have you been eating well etc
  • Ask them ” How can I help? ” “Would it help if we did XYZ?”
  • Even the smallest of tasks can be overwhelming to a person going through depression, this is an area where we can help a lot. It may be trying to help find a therapist, helping them shop for groceries or cleaning up their apartment.
  • Cooking a healthy meal for them- Chances are the person is skipping meals or eating unhealthy food so it might make them feel good to have a wholesome meal once in a while.
  • Helping them sort out their finances- This is another tricky area. Depression can mess up one’s finances big time. It might be an are where you could help a lot as well. This does not mean to give them money but if the person is not in a position to work and is in a financially difficult situation you can try to find help from local mental health charities.
  • Give them time- Recovery looks different for different people. One of the worst feelings I had in my recovery was to see the supporters losing faith and growing impatient.
  • Please refrain from telling them to ” jog or meditate and then you will be fine- Physical activities like jogging or swimming can, without doubt, help a person stay mentally healthy but let them take it at their own pace, you can start by encouraging short outdoor walks or activities that do not require so much energy and help them stick with it.
  • Different things work for different people- propose things taking this into account, I am an introverted person so the cheering up plans most of my friends used to suggest, like going out to parties was not very helpful.
  • Make sure they are going to the therapy appointments and taking medication if they have to, maybe offer to accompany them if they find it helpful
  • Don’t be hard on yourself- Your health is also important and we can all make mistakes, there are no quick fixes or magical words that can cure depression in one day, so when you don’t exactly know what to say, don’t panic. We have all been there. Please don’t stop helping someone because you once said a wrong thing.
  • It is not the time to preach the need for gratitude or for tough love. In detail here
  • Take good care of yourself- It is difficult to see your loved one in so much pain and not being able to do anything about it, it isn’t your fault.

What are some of the things that have helped you?

Jo

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55 thoughts on “How can I help someone who is going through depression?

    1. Oh my! This is the biggest surprise I had since starting my blog. I love how you support fellow bloggers even when you don’t necessarily have to. Thanks a lot for the reblog πŸ™‚ Hope this will help someone.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Great advice. We are all different even siblings that were raised exactly the same are different. We all go through depression at one time or another, it may not be severe and some can usually work their own way out of it. It is nice to know that someone is there with a shoulder to lean on or just to listen and encourage. Well done. :o)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, exactly. Me and my brother have had very similar childhood issues but we reacted very differently to it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I love your display picture πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very helpful and beautifully presented. Thanks to Roberta who reblogged this and I happened to stumble upon this.

    Hearing about the solution from a person who had gone through the problem and overcome it is much more helpful for people.

    THANKS

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for saying that. I am glad Roberta reblogged it too πŸ™‚ I was looking at your blog and love its name. Looking forward to reading more of your writing

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very well done. I found it interesting that your own solutions were sometimes not what you would have wanted. Waiting to write this until you were in a better place was wise. I too, sometimes don’t do what I would have wanted. I know my husband would say, “I don’t know what to do”. I told him “don’t try to solve my problem, just listen.” Good suggestion. Many times a person in depression knows what to do, but something inside blocks the ability to do it and that’s what people in general just don’t understand. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Many times a person in depression knows what to do, but something inside blocks the ability to do it and that’s what people in general just don’t understand. ”
      Exactly!!!I am very glad you pointed that out if we understood that part then supporting a person becomes a lot easier. All we can do in situations like is remind them that they are capable of making theIr own decision and help them get there. Thanks a lot for reading and hope you are doing well πŸ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

  4. There are some days where this indescribable and overwhelming mist covers my eyes and everything around me. It feels so dark and cold.

    I think it’s very important to have someone you can talk to and tell without feeling embarrassed about the way you feel. Someone who’s probably been through the dark mist.

    It also helps to spend time with those who have no clue about it and could totally distract you with some trivial activities.

    I do honestly believe it mostly comes from within and rarely caused by the external factors. Haven’t got around to get into meditation. I’ve heard it works in magical ways.

    Happy clear mind days xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You made some good points here, especially that we might just need to be with someone who doesn’t know what we are going through, just as a distraction. I used to do it sometimes because I was embarrassed, which wasn’t very nice. But I would say external factors can play a role in many cases. Yes, we do have a choice to react in any way to an external situation but sometimes we have to learn that the hard way. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts with me πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  5. WONDERFUL post. I went back to link it to my National Depression Screening Day first-person, “When Depression Comes Knocking” – find it on the Most Recent 20 articles on the rightmost column (or use the site search at the top) — scroll down to the end of the article for the answer to your question about what works for me.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am honored Madelyn, you inspire me to write about mental health issues more. Also, it is a relief you might read my articles and when I make a mistake, there is somebody whom I trust out there to correct it. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mistake? Maybe misinformation, but comprehensive knowledge comes with time. I go back and edit every time new info crosses my plate.

        GO FOR IT! You’ve got the right heart and “come-from” – and that’s what really matters. The world needs more people like you to step up and speak out.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I simply cannot cry in front of people so I used to wait until getting home as well, also work bathrooms πŸ˜€ Thanks for reading my post. Glad you found it a bit helpful

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Having struggled with depression all of my life, I know I have to see my shrink for the rest of my life for med checks.
    Since I’ve been through so much, I know that listening is the best we can do for another when they are depressed. Suggestions don’t help.
    Hugs do. If you have a mate, holding that person is another good thing to do.
    Never overwhelm a person with questions. It’s difficult for a depressed person to always know what or why they are depressed.
    Do pay attention to any mentions of suicide. Get them help if they can’t do it themselves.
    Doing chores to help the depressed person is very good. Feeding them healthy meals is good.
    Give them lots of love even if they reject it at the moment. It does help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hugs, yes I missed it!! Will definitely add it to the list. Also, you made a very important point about suicide, I would add it too. Thanks a lot for taking the time. I am sorry that you had go through it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jo,
    Don’t feel sorry. I’ve learned so much through my therapy for my depression which is inherited. Knowing there is no cure, but things that can help me is good.

    I’m a changed person having gone through years of therapy. I thank God for that. I’m glad I did it. Now I just go day to day, accepting whatever it may bring. It’s just how it is.

    Hugs,
    Pepp

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was really helpful… One of friend is going through harsh times.. When i try to support him… I always ask myself if I was in his position.. What things I would like? What would motivate me?….
    After that I try to say the things that I had like to hear.
    Though I try my best… I doubt that it was really helpful after all everyone is different and has there own likes and dislikes.
    After reading your post I am little bit more confident and hope I will be able to help him more…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope your friend is doing a bit better. It is not at all easy supporting a person through depression, even when we know them really well..but sounds like you are on the right path, taking your time to think what to say..and most importantly you realize that we all are different and different things might help, I think that awareness itself can help quite a lot..Glad you found it helpful πŸ™‚ thanks a lot for stopping by

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am also just learning, it really means a lot that you found it helpful. Thanks a lot for the follow as well, Looking forward to reading your writings as well πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I recently struggled with helping my partner cope with depression. No matter how hard I looked, I struggled to find help for me. I had no idea what to do or how to help. I felt like I was taking a constant battering but couldn’t ask for help because I wasn’t the one truly suffering. It is nice to know that there are people and a community here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry to hear that. I really hope your partner is feeling better and you are taking care of yourself as well. It is very difficult not knowing how to help, but I can see your earnestness in the comment and that is a lot more than what a lot of us have… hang in there and you can message me if you would like to talk more about it πŸ™‚

      Like

  10. Being a person who suffered from depression myself, I largely went through a lack of sleep. I remember not sleeping at all for a few months and cutting off from my family and friends. A heartfelt post and I felt it came from a space of care.
    If you have time just go through my blog. Its an infant compared to your baby, but let me know if you find something interesting https://theajmerriot.com/
    Godspeed

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry for the late reply Sonali. I think sleeping is one of the things where the symptoms of depression become so apparent. I hope you are in a better place now. Thanks for sharing this with me, I will surely check out your blog πŸ™‚

      Like

  11. The best thing that helps me when I get into a deep depression, is to just know someone cares and someone is here/there to listen and offer words of encouragement. To just be left alone, even though I am isolating, is one of the worst things you can do for someone seriously depressed. We isolate, but we really do NOT want to be left alone. We want someone to listen, to understand, to offer words of encouragement, to reassure us we’ll be ok, let us know they are here/there for us. Those are the things that help me and those are the things I use when trying to offer someone else a helping hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You really pointed out an important point here, “We isolate, but we really do NOT want to be left alone. ” it couldn’t be more true. It helps a lot when people reach out to us repeatedly even when we isolate ourselves. Thanks for telling me that. I hope you are doing well these days πŸ™‚

    Like

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