10 Tips on how to help a depressed friend or loved one
Depression is a horrible condition that affects not only the person who is suffering depression, but also those close to them. Depression and anxiety is a more common problem than you might have thought and surveys indicate that one in ten adults suffer from a mixture of the two. If you know someone who suffers from depression, it can be very difficult to know what you can do to help them, so here are ten tips and the best ways that you can help a depressed friend or a loved one.
1. Understand that it is an illness
The first thing to understand is that depression is an illness, just like any other illness. People are still very wary of anything that comes under the umbrella of mental illness and they feel uncomfortable dealing with it. If a friend were unwell with any other illness, you would do your best to help them, so treat people with depression in exactly the same way.
2. Just be there for them
Our next tip on how to help a depressed friend is to simply be there for them. Sometimes, all a depressed person wants is to have someone with them to talk to. It can be frustrating and awkward, watching a friend go through such a thing, but you can do an immense amount of good for them by simply listening to what they have to say.
3. Don’t try to make their problems sound small
Phrases like ‘you are just too sensitive’ or ‘you let things get to you too much’ are not a big help to a person with depression. Words like that suggest that a person is over-reacting or making mountains out of molehills. To a depressed person, their worries and concerns are very real, so don’t try and make light of them.
4. Let them know that they are not alone
Many sufferers of depression feel like they are fighting a never ending battle, all by themselves. It’s important for them to know that someone else is on their side and will be there to help them fight the depression. Don’t tell them you have a magic wand to solve all their problems though, tell them instead just that you will be at their side to help them through this.
5. The small gestures are very important
Next tip on how to help a depressed friend is to show them kindness. One thing that depressed people are very good at is blowing things out of all proportion. That applies to the nice things as well though, so a simple gesture like a phone call or helping them out with some chores can really make a difference to them and help them to reconnect with normality.
6. Encourage them to seek help
Many people are embarrassed to admit that they are depressed and will try and struggle through on their own. Serious depression can be debilitating and lead to self-harm or self-neglect, so if you think that a friend needs help, then encourage them to see their doctor. Family doctors are used to dealing with depression and can prescribe drugs to help, but your friend may need convincing that there is no shame in being a depression sufferer.
7. Avoid the temptation to offer advice
Another tip on how to help a depressed friend is to avoid the temptation to offer advice. It’s a natural reaction, when someone is unwell, to offer them advice. If you have no personal experience of depression, this can backfire. Telling them what they should do may can only make them feel even more inadequate, so ask them what you can do to help and leave it open to them to tell you. They will take advice more readily, if they asked for it in the first place.
8. Don’t tell them to snap out of it!
A severely depressed person really has no choice in the matter and it’s not just a case of ‘bucking yourself up’ or ‘snapping out of it’. If you use phrases like that, you are quite likely to get an angry response, because if they could do something about it, they would. Instead, try and let them know that you understand how they feel, rather than suggesting that depression is such a minor thing that can be easily ‘snapped out of’.
9. Let them know that it’s not their fault
People who are depressed often get into their minds that it is their own fault that they are depressed. They feel it is because they are weak, have done something wrong, or they deserve it. So our next suggestion on how to help a depressed friend is to let them know that it’s not their fault and that anyone can suffer from depression, even the strongest of people.
10. Be patient with them
Getting over depression can take a very long time and it is important that your friend or loved one knows that you will be with them, however long it takes. Being patient with a depressed person shows them that you care about them, depressed or not, and that you can give them a light at the end of a very dark tunnel that may not have been there before.
How to help a depressed friend or loved one?