7 Ways to Support Someone who is Depressed

If someone you care about is in the throes of a bout of depression it can be really difficult to know how to support them. I've been clinically depressed myself and I've supported people who are depressed, so I have experience of this horrible condition from both sides as both carer and cared for.

I've been talking to fellow sufferers and, drawing on their experience and my own, here are my tips on how to support someone who is depressed:

  1. LISTEN Don't try to "fix" them. It's tempting to try to come up with solutions - "why don't you..." "Look at it like this..." but actually, it can be really unhelpful. The best thing is to listen - really, really listen. You can reflect back what they have said to you so that they know you have heard them, but don't go overboard! The very act of being willing to listen can be a huge help.
  2. ASK THEM WHAT THEY NEED They might not know, but the fact that you are willing to ask can be comforting. If they do know, then act on it. They know what they need more than you do.
  3. FEED THEM Put good food in front of them - but don't get upset if they are unable to eat it. Look after them while they are incapable of looking after themselves, but be careful to let go when they are ready to take up the reins again.
  4. WALK WITH THEM Literally, walk with them. Gentle physical exercise, fresh air and sunshine, not to mention a change of scene can do wonders. A depressed person knows this, but might not be able to muster up the motivation to get outside. But, again, they might not feel able - don't be offended if your offer is turned down.
  5. DON'T JUDGE Someone who is depressed is likely to already be consumed by guilt and shame. Listen - but don't be quick to jump in with comparing experiences of your own. It might seem to you as if you're empathising, but the truth is no one has exactly the same experience, and it can seem as though you are negating their experience.
  6. OFFER TO MAKE APPOINTMENTS such as for a GP visit if one is needed. When a person is depressed it can feel overwhelmingly difficult to make that move. Go with them if they want you to, but make sure you know what they want from the visit so that you can help them communicate with the doctor. Don't simply take over. Ask them if they would like you to remind them to order repeat prescriptions - pharmacies can be really difficult to deal with!
  7. KEEP SHOWING UP It can seem like a long haul, but consistently showing up and showing you are willing to gently walk beside them through their darkest times can be the most supportive and helpful thing you can do.

There should be an eighth tip here, and that is, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Caring for someone with depression can be mentally and emotionally exhausting  and it's important to make time to replenish yourself.

Much as we want to help, to solve things for them, it is a mistake to try. Outside solutions rarely work - all you can do is support your loved one as they find their own way through this painful and debilitating period and have faith that it will pass.

It sounds like a cliché, but, like most clichés it is based in truth: just be there for them, in whatever way they need you to be. Though it might be difficult, you also need to be able to put your own feelings and concern for them aside and step back when they want you to. 

Above all, know this - though the person you are caring for might not express it, your support is undoubtedly appreciated and it does make a difference. The loneliness of a struggle with mental health is agonising. Knowing that you are willing to accept the situation lovingly and without judgement is priceless.



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