Don’t try to fix it.
There is no easy solution to depression. It is a result of a combination of complex factors including genetics, hormones, chemistry, and external circumstances. It is hard seeing someone that you love suffer from an unseeable force and of course you want to fix it, but your person will have to go on a journey to discover what works best for them. Just let them know that you love them and that you support them and that you are there to listen to them. Avoid saying things like, “You just need to get busy.” “You are overreacting.” “You just need to stop being depressed.” “Be positive.”
Listen to them.
If your person wants to talk to you, just listen. When someone is suffering from depression, some of what they may share may be shocking or scary to you. Do your best not to judge or be reactionary. Most likely, these thoughts are also scaring your person and for some people just sharing them is helpful. Sharing such a scary thought that their brain produces and seeing that they are still loved and supported by you may be comforting. Remember, there is a difference between feelings, thoughts and actions. Sharing thoughts and feelings is not the same as acting them out. Sharing thoughts and feelings is a vulnerable act and may help them to not act them out.
Ask and affirm.
Once your person is done sharing, you can ask, “Would you like me to respond or just listen?” If they want a response, tell them affirming words. Some things you can say are, “I can see/hear that this is a hard time for you. I am here for you.” It may help to tell them to take it a moment at a time and to ask what is the one next best thing they can do. It may be as simple as drinking some water or getting out of bed. They may not know what the next best thing is. Remind them that even in the darkest times, they are still lovable.
Cook or bring them healthy food.
Depression makes it so a person is unmotivated to care for themselves. This can result in worse health habits. However, research has shown that diet has a huge impact on depression and other mood disorder symptoms. Don’t just encourage the person to try being healthier when they are depressed, help them by bringing them nutritious food. Healthy fats and a diverse range of vegetables help the brain fight depression. Other care items that help a person with depression are probiotics, magnesium, vitamin D and a good daily multivitamin.
Don’t ask, “Are you better now?”
This question can be triggering because the person with depression may be trying to fight their depression and this feels Iike there is a deadline for when they need to be better and they may not be able to meet it. Everyone is different, but a better way to ask is, “Do you want to talk about how you are feeling today?” Don’t be offended if they say no.
Be mindful of what information you bring into their space.
Talking about all the drama that is going on in the world or having a chaotic television show in the background is not helpful to a person who is already suffering from depression.
Know about shame spiraling.
Being depressed can cause your person to feel shame about their mental health. This shame only makes the person feel worse about who they are because they are ashamed of it. Sometimes, the peak of a depressive episode may be over but your person may feel so ashamed that their body/brain became so depressed and what feels like being out of control. Remind your person that they are worthy of love and life and that you are grateful they are there sharing themselves with you.
Do research on depression.
There is so much information regarding depression. Read up on depression from a variety of sources. Don’t automatically assume that everything you read applies to your person, including this list. Every person is different.
Create a safe space.
The most important thing is to create a safe space for them to open up to you if they want to. When your person is willing to talk, ask what a safe space would like to them.
Thank you for taking the first step in supporting someone with depression. It is hard to see someone you love suffer in any way. Please remember that your self care is important as well. You can not care for someone else if you are not caring for yourself. If you want to care for this person and it is taking a toll on you, consider therapy and also take some time to make sure you are caring for your own personal boundaries. Depression is never an excuse to accept abuse.
Please check out my website mindfullight.net or my instagram @mindfullight for more mental health resources. I also created a music playlist to help someone struggling with their mental health on Spotify. Click the link below to listen
“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