5 Things to Do When Someone You Love Experiences Depression
Plenty of information exists for what not to say to someone with depression, but far fewer resources help you know what you should say or do when a loved one is going through a difficult period. To better understand what people find most helpful when experiencing depression, The Mighty turned to our readers. We asked them on Facebook to share one thing they appreciate hearing from others or wish people would say or do more often when they’re feeling depressed.
Here’s what we learned.
1. Be physically present.
When you can’t find the right words or the person you’re with isn’t ready to talk, just sitting with them in silence or holding their hand can be just what they need.
“There’s nothing they can say that will help, but someone trying to be physically present for me when I turn into a hermit and have difficulty going out due to a tight schedule and social anxiety would be amazing,” reader Trianna Landon wrote on Facebook.
Another reader, Claudia Berry-Iacovetto, agreed: “Just a little bit of silent company and a small touch is good,” she wrote on Facebook.
2. Also know when to give someone space.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, the best way to help someone is to give them time alone. “Space is essential,” blogger Antony Harvey, who lives with depression, wrote in his post, “8 Ways to Support a Partner Living With Depression.”
If a loved one who has depression withdraws or pushes you away, it doesn’t mean they don’t still want and need you in their life. “At the really low points, remember you are loved, wanted and needed, even if it seems like you aren’t,” Harvey added.
3. Acknowledge that depression is a real illness.
Common misconceptions like “people with depression are not mentally strong” and “depression is not a real illness” can cause people who live with depression to feel undervalued and misunderstood. Validating someone’s feelings and acknowledging that depression is a real illness is one of the most important things you can do for someone who has depression.
“Pretend I have cancer or any other debilitating illness. Just remember I have an illness, too,” blogger LaRee Etter wrote in her post, “To My Loved Ones Who Feel Helpless About My Depression.” “Don’t dismiss what I’m going through. It may be invisible to you, but it is ever so real and debilitating to me.”
“I still have lingering postpartum depression that hits at random times. I really appreciate the people who tell me I’m not crazy for feeling the way I feel,” reader Moosey Mae told us on Facebook. “I need to hear it’s OK for me to feel depressed, and I try to do the same for people I know who have depression. It’s a very real thing!”
4. Do what you can to alleviate small, everyday pressures.
When a person is experiencing depression, typical day-to-day tasks can feel like insurmountable obstacles, so tackling chores like taking out the garbage and washing dishes is a great way to help out.
“These days, there is always stuff that needs to be done, bills that need to be paid, plumbers that need to be called, shopping that needs to be happen,” Harvey wrote in his blog. “If possible, try to take away as much of this stress from us as you can.”
“If I’m struggling, offer me something to eat. Fix dinner or bring over a casserole. Offer to mow my lawn, shovel the snow or help with laundry,” Etter wrote in her blog. “Do anything you would do for a loved one having difficulty caring for themselves due to any illness.”
5. Make sure they know they’re loved and not in this alone.
Many of the readers who responded on Facebook said the most important thing to them is that people show love and support any way they can. “Sometimes, just knowing someone cares means everything,” reader Allen Moredock wrote.
Readers Crystal Malta and Genevieve Lyon Butler each said that even when they don’t feel up to socializing, they appreciate when friends and family reach out to them. “I would love for people to keep reaching out to me even when I withdraw and to let me know they aren’t upset when I go long periods of time without contacting them,” Malta wrote. “Depression can be so isolating.”
“I have a great friend who is an expert at making sure I feel loved. She text messages me every other day, saying things like, ‘How are you today? I’m here if you need me,’ or ‘I’m thinking of you, do you want to come over for a glass of wine?’ or ‘I love you,’” Butler wrote. “When I can’t come because it’s just to much, she says, ‘I completely understand. But I will keep trying.’”
*Some responses have been edited and shortened.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.