According to the World Health Organization, there are about 280 million people in the world that suffer from some form of depression. I’m sure that the pandemic hasn’t helped this number go down. With so many people suffering from depression, there are also many people wanting to help their loved ones that are depressed. They just may not know how. If that is you, I want to help you out.
Today I’ll be sharing a couple of ways that you can be there for someone struggling with depression. I’ve been having depressive episodes since 2015. The ideas I list here are things that have either personally helped me, or others, as well as some things that I wish people would do for me. You are getting a first hand account from someone who’s been there. First, let’s talk a little about what depression is.
An Introduction To Depression
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression (or major depressive disorder as it is also called) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. A characteristic of not just depression, but other mental illnesses, is that it can be hard to spot in a person. It’s not a physical illness where you are battling things like sneezing, nausea, pain, etc.. Most mental illnesses take place in the mind, which makes it hard for you to spot it in your loved ones, unless they tell you.
Some symptoms of depression include feeling sad, loss of interest in things the person usually enjoys, difficulty sleeping, changes of appetite, mood changes, as well as thoughts of harming themselves or suicide. If you notice any of these behaviors in your loved ones it’s important to come to them from a place of love, not accusation. Let’s look at some ways you can do that.
2 Major Ways You Can Be There For Someone With Depression
If you want to show your loved one that you support and love them there are some right ways to do it, and some very wrong ways to do it.
Encourage But Don’t Guilt Trip
There are very few things that someone struggling with depression hates hearing more than “I wish you would just get over it” or “ what do you have to be sad about.” I could list more but I’m sure you get the picture. You may mean well when you say something like this, but when someone is going through a depressive episode it doesn’t come across in a well-meaning way. Here are a few things you can say to your loved one instead, whether it be through text, FaceTime, letter, or even face-to-face.
- I know you are struggling right now, but I just want you to know that I’m here for you when you want to talk
- I know life has been tough for you lately, but I want you to know that you are so strong and you inspire me so much. I know you are going to get through this.
- I found this _______ (inspiring quote, song lyric, TikTok, etc.) the other day and it reminded me of you. I just wanted to share it with you and send you some encouragement today.
Do you see how much more loving and supportive those statements sound? Remember these for the next time you see a loved one struggling with depression.
Be Present But Don’t Hover
Something that I find strange about depression is how it makes me feel about social situations. Most of my depression stems from feeling lonely, but yet socializing is most often the last thing I do. I tend to shut the world out when my depressive episode is more severe. This seems counterproductive, and it probably is, but it’s how I have to get through sometimes.
I say this to say, don’t get upset if your loved ones don’t seem excited about making plans, or even turn you down. I think it’s important to still invite them to outings, or even just for coffee, just don’t continue to press it if you get a no. Here are some ideas to show your loved one that you care and you are there for them, without forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.
- If they are typically the one to initiate a meetup, try initiating one this time instead. They may want to hang out but they might not have the energy to reach out and plan.
- Instead of inviting them out, see if you can come in. Spend the day at their house or have a night in Just be sure to keep COVID best practices in mind if you are planning on doing this while the pandemic is going on.
- If your loved one just isn’t up for company or an outing, but you still want to show that you are there, send them a care package. You can send a gift set with all of their favorite things, or you can take a look at our recommendations of a self care box. Find one you think they would like and send it as a gift.
Just remember, what you think they need may not line up with what your loved one thinks they need. Respect their opinion, but also realize there are other ways to check in and show that you care. It can be simple as a daily text saying that you are thinking of them, or a funny GIF.
I hope these tips have helped you learn more about what your loved one is going through and how to best support them. If you need more ideas, check out this article. What other ideas can you think of?