Finding the balance between helping a friend who is struggling with depression while also giving them the space they need can be a difficult one to get right. Even if you’ve got the right intentions and are genuinely trying to help, there are certain things you need to keep in mind to avoid being patronising or making things worse.
Your support to a friend can be a valuable and important part of their recovery, helping them to regain their optimism and energy. Meanwhile, it’s equally important to not get caught in a spiral of negativity yourself and ensure that you give enough attention to your own mental health as well. If you’re feeling helpless, frustrated or anxious about helping someone with depression, here are some guidelines you can use to provide the necessary and appropriate support while maintaining your own emotional well-being.
1. Listen Without Judgement
This is perhaps the most essential part of supporting someone who is depressed. It’s often not necessary to provide logical explanations and well-thought out solutions to problems that are described. It’s more important to make sure you are available to them and take the pressure off of them.
If your friend or loved one is going through depression, they are likely already frustrated with their situation and critical of themselves already. Because of this, try not to put even more pressure on them to take action immediately and work through solutions so they can feel better. Sometimes, all you have to do is be a compassionate and non-judgemental listener.
2. Support Their Treatment
This step involves having an abundance of understanding and patience while helping your loved one through their treatment. Help them research ways in which to feel better and stay on schedule with their recovery. However, be certain that they are ready to accept this help in the first place before you provide any assistance. If a person is completely unwilling to seek help elsewhere, it’s not a good idea to book them a doctor’s appointment and try to get them to turn up to it.
Although the word “treatment” implies a medical pathway, even encouraging them to get involved in activities and leading by example can lift their spirits while boosting your own mood too. One great option would be to do some form of exercise together whether it’s going for a walk or joining a fitness class. By leading a healthier and happier lifestyle yourself, your loved one will be encouraged to do the same.
“You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn
By simply being a carefree and joyous person alone, you are helping your loved one.
3. Take Care Of Yourself
Leading on from the last point, if you get sucked into a negative spiral of emotions yourself, it does no one any benefit. You may instinctively want to do everything you can to help your loved one but you can only do so much. Appropriate boundaries need to be set so that you can still maintain your own mental health while providing support.
Adopting an open and comfortable way of communicating is an essential part of this step. If the other person is becoming overly reliant on you or becoming too much of a burden, it will not help either of you to suppress this emotion and letting internal resentment build up within you. Talk openly about how you feel before built-up emotions deteriorate your relationship with the other person and leave you both in an unhappier frame of mind.
At no point is it necessary to make huge changes in your lifestyle. While it may be inevitable to make some changes in your daily routine, do your best to keep your hobbies and activities running. There is no shame in asking for other people’s help or confiding in a trusted friend as long as you maintain a sensible sense of confidentiality.
4. How To Talk To Someone Depressed?
One of the most common issues that you may have when trying to help someone who is depressed may simply be that you don’t know what to say to them. You may be worried about coming off as patronising or annoying them.
The first thing to consider in this case is that being compassionate is the most important thing. Above providing logical solutions, above giving practical suggestions and activities. Encourage your loved one to speak freely about their emotions and be willing to listen persistently. It’s very easy to think of yourself as a burden and isolate yourself if you are going through depression. So as a carer, be sure to express your concern and convey that you are fully willing to listen as much as is needed.
5. Some Things To Avoid Saying
Even if you have the best intentions, it can be very easy to say something that is unintentionally demeaning or irritating to your loved one. A few of these phrases can come across as impatient or that you simply don’t understand the other person’s situation. For example, avoid the following phrases:
- We all go through times like this
- Look on the positive side of things
- Just break out of it
Instead, ask questions that offers a sense of hope and encourages them to talk about their feelings:
- When did this start?
- Did something cause you to feel like this?
- Have you thought about getting help?
These guidelines can help you provide support to your loved one when they are going through depression. Be sure to take care of yourself. It is an incredibly compassionate and admirable thing to do when you support someone through such tough times, but it’s also important to take care of yourself.