We all know someone who struggles with depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 322 million people worldwide struggle with depression. Knowing how to support someone with depression is a skill set we all need to develop. It shows our loved one that they are not alone, something that is vital for their well-being. While there are definitely more than the ones below, the five ways we’ve identified here can give you a starting place on your journey to helping someone with depression.
Listening goes a long way. Depression is isolating. When you take time to listen, you are designating yourself as a safe place for your loved one to share their fears and feelings. This isn’t a time to problem-solve or “fix” the depression. All they need from you is an ear, to know you are present and willing to listen. When you are listening, mirror back to them on occasion what you are hearing. Don’t interpret; only clarify. This will not only make you a safe place but also put you in a position to help if the need arises. If you don’t listen, you won’t know.
2. Be intentional when you talk
We’ve all messed up and said the wrong thing before. Chances are you will do it again. However, being aware of how your words are received is so important. Do the work ahead of time and plan out what you might say in response to certain comments. Here’s a list of sentences to avoid when supporting someone with depression:
- Stop having a pity party; life isn’t that bad.
- You’ll get through this.
- God never gives us more than we can handle.
- You have to think positively.
- Everything happens for a reason.
I’m sure you could add more to this list. Instead go in to the conversation prepared with these phrases:
- I am sorry you feel ________. That must be really painful.
- I care about you. You are important to me.
- You are not alone.
Spend some time practicing through conversations that might come up. Read articles like this one on how to talk to someone with depression. And always be willing to ask the hard questions regarding self-harm and suicide ideation.
3. Help them with acts of service
Depression can be debilitating. Ask your friend for specific ways that you can help them. This might be bringing dinner, mowing a lawn, or walking their dog when they don’t have the energy. Depression depletes energy, and major episodes can land someone in bed. Help them stay afloat. If their love language is service, then you’ll be communicating they are not alone in more ways than one.
4. Don’t make things worse
There are unhealthy coping mechanisms with depression. Finding healthy ones for both of you will be beneficial in the long run. For instance, invite your friend to engage in activities they enjoy, even if it is just sitting on the couch with you watching a favorite movie. At the same time, avoid enabling unhealthy choices, such as drinking, that can worsen depression. What might seem like a fun night to you can lead to harmful self-medication practices.
5. Participate in their treatment
Mental health treatment requires a community of support. Be willing to go with your loved one to appointments, offer to drive them and even sit in on sessions when invited. However, do not be pushy. Leave the control in the hands of your loved one as to how much participation they want from you. Decisions must be theirs or they will not stick. Simply be willing.
More than anything, be there. Supporting someone with depression is communicating that they are not alone, that even if you might not fully understand what they are going through that you love them. Let’s remove the stigmas and shame that come with depression and start offering hope to the 322 million people worldwide who are struggling. After all, isn’t hope exactly what Jesus offered us?
If you are wondering what it means to authentically follow Jesus, join us on Unfiltered Radio as we investigate who He claimed to be and how He taught us to interact with one another.