When you see a loved one is depressed, you get a strong urge to help them. But hear me out on this one:
There’s a right way and a wrong way to try and help someone. Here’s how to help your depressed friend the right way.
The main thing to remember is that living with depression isn’t easy.
I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I know what it feels like to be depressed. I also know what it feels like when others tried to make me feel better and often times made me feel even worse.
So if you’re trying to make a loved one feel better, here are a few things I want you to bear in mind.
Keep reading as we take a look at the major don’ts when it comes to helping someone with depression and instead, learn the safe ways to handle sensitive matters like this one.
First things first – here’s a video where I share my view on this topic:
Don’t: Instruct them to call a hotline for help
Do: Be here for them & create a human connection
I’m writing this first because whenever someone says they’re depressed, people immediately jump and say: OMG, you’ve gotta call this hotline for help, I’ve heard it’s great!
Please don’t do that to your friends. It probably took them a while to gather the courage to tell you about their depression in the first place.
If they shared with you sensitive things about their mental health, that means they trust you. But it also means they’re not craving to talk to a hotline operator. They just want to talk to their friend.
Be there for them and give them the human connection they want.
Don’t: Undermine their feelings
Do: Let them know you understand them
If I only had a dollar for every time I’ve shared with someone that I’m feeling empty only to hear them say: Nah, I’m sure you’ll be fine.
Actually, having someone tell me I’ll be fine never made me feel fine. It made me feel stupid, unworthy and made me regret my decision to share something that personal with them.
A simple I understand and I’m here for you whenever you want to talk about your feelings is ten times better than telling someone they’re fine.
Don’t: Get pulled into the depression yourself
Do: Realize it’s not their fault
Often times, when a loved one is angry, you want to help them so badly, you get frustrated when they’re not accepting the help you’re offering.
Frustration turns into anger and anger turns into sadness – right before you know it, you’ve been sucked into the depression yourself!
If you’ve never suffered from depression, then trust me when I say, you don’t know what depression feels like. You can’t blame a person for their depression.
Instead of getting mad when someone’s not doing what you’ve been suggesting they should do, realize it’s not their fault. Whenever they refuse to cooperate, just be there for them – talk to them or listen to them patiently.
Don’t: Tell them to cut the crap
Do: Understand that people with depression view reality differently
People who are depressed often struggle with even the most mundane tasks in the world like getting out of bed or taking a shower.
Never tell anyone with depression to cut the crap or to snap out of it. They can’t even if they wanted to.
You do have to realize that whenever someone’s depressed, their look on the reality is different. The negative feelings and emotions they experience are so strong, they see the world as if standing behind a grey curtain.
And believe me when I say, that view ain’t nice.
Don’t: Tell them it’s just a bad day (when it’s obvious it isn’t)
Do: Encourage them to get help
Everyone has that day when nothing goes right and everyone vents about it to their friends. However, depression is so much more than a bad day.
If you’ve been noticing that your friend isn’t their true self lately, if they look & feel tired, or if you notice more than once some of the common depression symptoms, don’t tell them it’s just a bad day.
Instead, give them a gentle nudge and encourage them to get help and talk to a professional. Who knows, you may even save someone’s life by doing this.
Don’t: Judge them when they share their feelings
Do: Hear out what they have to say
People with depression will almost never talk about the way they feel. Most often, they’re ashamed of their feelings & emotions.
So you can imagine how much does it take for them to decide to share how they feel with someone they trust, only to be judged in return.
I’ve heard people calling other depressed people ungrateful, spoiled or bored – and I know nothing of that is true.
Depression is a serious illness and one of the leading causes of death in the USA.
Whenever someone’s brave enough to talk about their negative feelings, hear them out. It’ll make a world of difference.
Don’t: Wait for them to call you (and get angry if they don’t!)
Do: Call them and invite them to hang out
When I was feeling depressed, I didn’t feel like doing anything really. I didn’t even want to eat or shower, and let alone spend time with people.
And yet, some of my friends got mad with me because I didn’t call them to hang out.
See, when a person is depressed, they don’t really feel like doing anything. It’s you who has to do all the effort (and I have to warn you, it may sometimes feel like you’re doing it in vain).
If your friend is depressed, check up on them as often as you can – and as often as they’d like. Don’t push them to do something if they don’t want to but do insist to get them out of the house as often as possible.
They’ll be so grateful to you once they start feeling like their old selves.
How do YOU help others cope with their depression?
If you’ve ever been depressed, how did your friends treat you?
Share with me and tell me your story – I’d love to hear about it!