1. Educate yourself.
The internet is littred with millions of articles about mental health, depression and related topics. Some of these said articles are testimonials of people who live with these conditions every day. This really is the first step. You can’t help until you understand. You can’t love, can’t support and certainly can’t connect before you understand. So get to know everything you can about what your friend/significant other/sibling is dealing with. When you understand, everything else will be a little easier.
2. Be kind, always.
No matter what we’re feeling, kindness is something humanity can never have too much of. Sometimes it might feel like your significant other is shutting you out, or that your efforts are futile. But no matter the situation, BE KIND. We all have off days. But a depressed person will have way more of these than you do. Understand this, and do not make it worse for them.
3. Re-affirm your support as much as you can.
The truth is, you’ll never fully understand. The truth also is that even the world’s best psychiatrists will never fully understand -and they’re the experts. That being said, more than anything, your depressed friend/significant other needs to know that you’ll always stand with or by them no matter what. So even when you don’t understand; even when whatever they’re going through makes absolutely no sense to you, remind them that you’re there through it all; that they don’t have to do it alone. And prove it. Again. And Again. And again.
4. Pay attention, and LISTEN.
Every single one of us gives off signals every minute of every day. Even when we’re not communicating, we’re communicating. A good example of this is when we say we’re “fine”. Sometimes we are not fine when we say we are. And anyone who cares to will pick up on this.
Generally speaking, when you pay attention, you’re able to hear the things people don’t say just as clearly as you do the things they say. So pay attention! We’re losing too many people to not paying enough attention. The media is filled with reports of seemingly happy people whose suicides shocked the world because they suffered in silence. Now I’m pretty sure if someone had paid attention, they would have picked up on something. Like I said, we’re always communicating, even when we’re not. It could be through our body language, our interaction with others, our speech, tone of voice, our behaviour, lifestyle choices -something. So pay attention. Your friend/significant other should never be made to feel like talking about their pain is pointless.
5. Understand that they do not choose to be that way.
Repeat after me. Depression is not a choice. Anxiety is not a choice. No one ever chooses to exist in a state of constant mental turmoil. That just makes no sense at all. They can’t just “get over it” and they will not magically “be fine”. We do not tell cancer patients to get over it or that they’ll be fine. Depression is just as serious, even if we can’t see it. So remind yourself constantly that if they could, they wouldn’t be this way.
6. Take care of yourself.
Do not neglect yourself. Loving someone who’s depressed can be exhausting and sometimes, you might host feelings of guilt and/or exasperation over the fact that you can’t always make this person happy. It’s not your fault. And its not theirs either. So don’t feel guilty about being happy when they’re sad. They want happiness for you. So remember to recharge.
7. When in doubt, HUG it out.
Granted, hugs won’t magically make them well, but they’ll remind them that even when you don’t understand, you’re there. Sometimes, that’s all they need.
A lot of the time, we assume depressed people want to be left alone. And while they do sometimes need space, remember that we all need someone. No one should ever have to carry their burdens alone. Also, remember that they constantly worry about being a burden to their loved ones. They do not want to weigh you down with their issues. So it can be a struggle to get them to share their destructive thoughts with you. But that doesn’t mean you abandon them to it. Like I said, when in doubt, HUG!
8. Do not compare your experience with theirs.
It’s almost natural for us to want to share similar experiences when people open up about rough patches. A lot of the time, though, this comes across as you minimalizing their pain. Don’t. Many times, an unjudging listening ear is all they need.
9. Break the stigma, don’t create it.
Depression is not something that should be seen as shameful and depressed people are not weak or inadequate. To the contrary, the depressed are often the kindest, most compassionate people out there. A lot of people are unable to express the weight they are carrying because they are afraid of being judged or dismissed.
“We tell them that it is not real; to get over it. If they could, why would they tell you even when they know how they are going to be seen?”
No one should ever have to feel like this! No one should ever be made to think that they are their wounds or that their wounds make them unworthy in some way.
10. Ask questions.
If you need to understand, ask. Ask them how they feel. Ask them where they are in their coping process; what kind of day they had. Not all days are bad days. So make them feel comfortable telling you when they have an off day -and then do something to make it easier. Offer to watch their favorite movie with them. Make them a cup of hot chocolate. Invite them along for a walk or drive. Offer to take over some of their chores. We all have little things that make us feel better on our bad days. This is the part where you ask what these little things are. They’ll come in handy.
On a bad day, depression can feel crippling. You know you need to do this and that but you can’t get yourself to move; to do anything. It’s not something that can properly be described to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but these 50 people tried.
Here’s to mental wellness and helping out wherever we can.