When you support someone with depression it isn’t about ‘fixing them’, it’s about being supportive, listening and doing what you can to make life a little easier for them.
There’s a great disparity in the way people react when you tell them you are unwell with depression, compared to being unwell with something like a cold or a broken leg.
You might feel a bit lost, a bit useless, a bit like a spare peg but you’re none of those things. We promise.
There are practical things you can do to support someone with depression. We asked our community to provide some examples to help you feel as though you’re helping your loved one.
Stay in Touch
When your mind is feeling unsafe, the rest of the world just amplifies that unsafe feeling. You may have invited your friend to various events to be turned down, time after time. Please don’t take this personally, it’s really not a reflection on how that person feels about you – it’s about how they feel about themselves and the world at large.
Keep in contact regularly, to remind them you care and also to remind them how highly you think of them. When the voice in your head is on repeat, telling you how hopeless, helpless and horrible you are, your words make a difference to the voice in their head and how horrible they feel.
Send them a wee message regularly to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them and you care about them.
Remind them of their strengths and abilities whenever you can. Let them know that you believe that they have it within them to get through. Depression destroys my self confidence and self worth so hearing that someone genuinely still believes in me can be very powerful.
A card or note in the post is particularly special. You can look at it over and over and remember the person who cared enough to send it.
I know out of sight is out of mind for some people but please try to keep in touch with friends who have withdrawn. Doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, may be just a quick “Hi” on FB or a quick friendly call or a simple saying hello card. The loss of friends to a depressive person is devastating.
So many good ideas above that I totally agree with but right now what would help me most is being reminded of my strengths, skills etc and help with completing job applications and preparing for interviews. It’s so hard to get motivated anyway but trying to sell yourself when confidence is at a low is pretty impossible.
Remember to keep inviting them to things even if they’re hardly ever able to come out because then they won’t feel left out and abandoned.
What’s helped me is getting real postcards and cards from people in the post. I’ve still been isolated, but it’s helped me not to feel completely forgotten about.
Write them a letter or buy them a nice card and write what they mean to you and some encouraging things in it for them to look at. Reminding them how special they are
Offer to Help With Chores
The exhaustion that comes with depression is difficult to put into words. When you expend energy fighting the negative thoughts every single second of every single day (yup, they invade our dreams too), there’s little energy left for anything else.
When we’re well, we operate on autopilot a lot of the time. Things like having a shower, brushing our teeth and answering the telephone, are seemingly little they require little thought and little energy.
Those tasks for someone with depression can be insurmountable. It’s not laziness either, it’s a level of exhaustion that makes your body feel as though it’s made of lead.
Make meals in portion sizes to freeze.
Help to declutter a space in their house, bedrooms are good cuz that might be where they spend all their time!
Clean their bed linen? Or at least change for fresh sheets.
Remember their normal is different from yours.
Doing small jobs for them helps, they are small jobs for you but hugely stressful ones for them, like taking the bins out.
Helping with ANY chore, no matter how small WITHOUT them asking would be a huge help.
My friend comes grocery shopping with me to make sure I remember everything and make healthy choices and also takes away the anxiety of going.
Offer to go along to doctor’s appointments with them. Perhaps you can help them write down everything they want to talk about beforehand too, so that nothing is missed out.
Help Them Prioritise Self-Care
Self-care can feel icky at the best of times. It feels like a luxury and the very act of it is so at odds with how we feel about ourselves, that it often loses the battle of resistance.
If you can remove some of the physical barriers to self-care, that can help enormously.
Babysit so they can have some self care.
Remind them of the beauty and importance of self care, anything from having a bubble bath to a nice cuppa.
I would love someone to come and say “you go upstairs and lie down for a bit” and entertain the kids and cook food without expecting much from me!
Your Presence (and Listening Skills) are valued
Sometimes, depression can be the elephant in the room. You know it’s the reason things have changed. Your loved one is aware that it’s the reason things have changed. This is uncharted territory for the both of you. You want so badly to help that you might sometimes come across as a bit ‘problem solver-y’. We know your intentions are good, there’s no doubt about that, but your just being there, and willing to listen, speaks volumes.
Set aside time to visit and just ‘be’ with them. This might mean making a cuppa, chatting -or not; watching a DVD together, making a duvet fort etc.
Be accepting when they don’t know what’s wrong and offer hugs. Sometimes just the physical closeness of somebody and knowing they accept how you’re feeling can really make a difference (it’s what my OH does that really means a lot.)
I know what is most helpful to me is when someone just listens and doesn’t try to provide solutions, no matter what I say. And don’t freak out if I discuss suicidal thoughts – because they are thoughts, it doesn’t mean I’ll act on them. But it helps to speak about it without judgement.
Let them have as many hugs as they need, and let them spend time in your company without making them feel like they have to entertain you. Depression is very lonely, but sometimes it takes too much energy to socialise, so finding in between is really comforting.
Listen properly and give me time to explain.
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