It can be so hard to watch the person you love go through the darkness that is depression. You may feel confused, frustrated and overwhelmed at times – just not knowing what to do. Perhaps your attempts at ‘help’ are pushed away or ignored, leaving you feeling rejected. Missing the ‘old’ them.
Despite it being one of the most common mental health issues in the UK, it can still be difficult to know what to say or do to support a person who is depressed. Here are a few ideas that I have found that can be useful.
Let them know you are there
This is one of the most important things you can do. However, rather than just saying it – show it. Call, visit – make contact. The nature of depression means that the person experiencing depression is unlikely to reach out to you. Just being there will make an immense difference.
Give them space to feel sad
Understand that they may need to be alone sometimes. When your loved one turns down another trip out together or doesn’t want to talk, try not to take it personally. That does not mean you should stop asking, but if they refuse or let you down last minute know it is not because of you! They may just not have enough emotional or physical energy to do so. Ask them what they need instead.
Validate their feelings
When someone is experiencing depression, the worst kind of things you can say to them is ‘snap out of it’ or ‘there are people far worse off in the world’ etc. Don’t dismiss how they are feeling or try to convince them they are not that bad. Worse, don’t shame them for feeling depressed. Instead really listen to what they are saying, let them know it’s ok to be sad, tired…whatever they are feeling at the time. Acknowledge what they are feeling or trying to communicate with phrases like ‘that must be really hard for you’ or ‘you seem really down today’. This allows them to feel heard and will hopefully allow them to open up to you more when they are ready.
Take care of yourself
Supporting someone with depression is tough! Being around someone with low energy can risk bringing your energy down too. Therefore it is vital that you have someone or something to support you.
Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.Eleanor Brown
Therefore, one of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself. Find someone that you can talk to and share how YOU are feeling with. Make sure you are eating and sleeping well, getting plenty of exercises and also making time for hobbies and being with others. Set boundaries around what you can and cannot do, for example, you may not be able to answer phone calls in the middle of the night. It’s not selfish to do this, by taking care of your needs you are in a better position to support them so you can get through the depression together.