How to Support Someone Who is Depressed

Come learn some kind ways to support someone who is depressed.

A woman with her face raised to the light contemplating how to support someone who is depressed.

Depression is not sadness. Depression is overwhelm, lost, lonely, less than, hopeless: at least to me it is. Today I want to share some ways to support someone who is depressed or sending out signals that they might not be OK.

Whether standing by itself or linked to the words such as “major”, “postpartum”, “psychotic”, “seasonal affective”, “situational”, and so on, the word depression is a state of being that is difficult and not easily understood. Without having experienced some form of depression it is difficult to relate to anyone who may be going through it. 

Depression is not sadness nor is it something that can be “white knuckled” through.  It is not a mind set and it does not have a simple solution.  For many the idea of admitting to being depressed or even acknowledging that they might be exhibiting symptoms of depression is often difficult, due to their upbringing, the view of family and friend about mental health, the idea that they are high achievers and can do anything so why can’t I just wipe this away and so many other reasons.

Oh yeah that last one………..that is about me.  Growing up as a first generation college student, there was no time for feeling or avoiding, there was just powering through and getting to the next goal. So as an adult realizing that I had panic attacks and bouts of depression made me feel weak and ashamed.  Why couldn’t I just get over myself and be joyful, confidant and doubt free? Well, that is not how this all works.  I am sure I will refer to my long journey of my own understanding of my mental health through these blogs but for today I want to share how to help.

Today, I have depression. Wow, that is difficult to type.  There is no “cure” for depression – just ways to live with it, to manage it, to make sure you are taking time to recognize it and, for me, to let others help.

I recently let a friend in on my mental internal struggle and they were surprised, dare I say shocked.  She and I had known each other for over 10 years and she has always been a mirror for me, someone who is seemingly very self-aware, strong, a seeker. As I opened up my internal dialogue to her and the fact that having her as a listening ear, an honest confidant who has helped me so much through the bad days, I felt a weight lifted. I was finally speaking honestly about my experience, no filter, I had let her into my thoughts. 

Hmmm, that was new for me! I have always filtered my words, made sure they were not revealing too much, but just enough. I would turn words and sentences around in my head – why I don’t know, maybe to not scare off friends – to ensure I did not go too deep too fast. What has always gotten me through at every age has been knowing that other people care about me, want me around and value me, some may say love me. 

Ever since I can remember I have had this ache to be included to be seen.  I know I am loved, but sometimes that seems easy, but seeing me, including me, reaching out to me is what I need and I know those are actions that can be difficult for people to take. Know that simple actions to show your love someone, that they are seen and wanted can make a person feel valued, needed and so much more. This act of noticing them, including them, can save a life at the very least brighten a day.

Which brings me to my simple, practical ways to support someone who is depressed.

First, notice! Notice changes in your people those around you, their behaviors, their words, their actions. Are they less responsive to your texts or calls? Did you have a regular get together with one another and now they always find an excuse not to. go? Their temperament has changed in some way, they just don’t seem to be acting like themselves. Make note of the frequency or pattern because this kind of withdrawing can be an indicator that depression is affecting their choices.

Trust your intuition! If you believe your friend, family member or acquaintance is off, maybe more withdrawn, more frantic, just off, reach out with a simple text, gesture, a thoughtful gift, a kind word.   Be the friend you would want in such a moment. You don’t have to mention why you are reaching out if you don’t want to – just letting them know they still matter to you can help them reconnect.

Don’t, assume you know how they feel, but do express, support, love, care in the ways you have before and maybe in some new ways. Just do what feels natural and loving and kind: a text, a card, sending them something that you know they will appreciate, a phone call, taking them their favorite coffee/tea, a change of scenery or to a place you know they love.  Just kind little things make a big difference. It lets them know that you value spending time thinking of or being with them and might encourage them to open up.

Do take action and trust yourself! Here is a great link for some simple Do’s and Dont’s that gives some additional suggestions on how you can help.

Know you cannot “fix” your person, but you can let them know you see them, you care and that you are willing to walk this path with them. After all, how to support someone who is depressed is all about the small gestures, the kindnesses and just being there for them as you always have been.

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