You may feel helpless and lost when a spouse, friend, or family member is depressed. These suggestions for helping someone with depression include practical tips and emotional support.
Reading books like Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue will increase your understanding of what depression is. One of the best ways to be helpful to someone who is depressed is to learn about depression. What does it feel like? If you have even just an intellectual understanding of depression (as opposed to first-hand experience), you’ll be in a better position to help someone with depression. Shades of Blue is a collection of stories that illuminates the truth behind the stigma of mental health issues such as depression. This book offers compassion, solidarity, and hope for all those who have struggled with depression.
In How to Deal With a Depressed Boyfriend, I offer several different types of practical tips for helping someone with depression. It can be difficult to find the balance between being supportive, and taking on your loved one’s problems. If you carry his burden, you won’t help him. It’s tricky to offer love and encouragement in healthy ways, but it is possible.
Helping Someone With Depression
Remember that every person is unique. What may help me deal with depressed feelings may not help you. We all deal with emotional issues differently, and there is a huge range in the degree and severity of depression. What may seem to like a good idea for helping someone with depression – such as trying to cheer the person up – won’t work for everyone. In fact, trying to cheer someone up is one of the worst tips for helping someone with depression!
So how do you know how to help when someone is depressed? You try a variety of things, and you stay open to feedback.
Ask the person with depression how you can help
If you haven’t yet talked about depression with the person, you might start with honesty. Tell him what your experience is with depression (be brief!), and ask what it feels like. If he’s willing to talk, listening will be the best tip for helping someone with depression.
Ask what you can do to be helpful. Tell him that you don’t know how to help, but you want to be as supportive as possible. If he says there’s nothing you can do to help, believe him. It’s possible that there is literally nothing you can do to help someone with depression. It’s also possible that he doesn’t know what he needs.
If he asks for help treated depressed feelings, read 8 Natural Remedies for Depression – No Drugs or Doctors. Don’t tell him to take specific natural supplements for depression. Give him information, and encourage him to talk to his doctor or counselor.
Listen without judgment
Don’t express your opinions about being depressed or ways to treat depression – even if you’ve read a pile of psychology textbooks about depression. If he wants to talk about what it’s like to be depressed, then listen. More likely, he won’t talk about it.
Withdrawing and social isolation are two of the most common signs of depression, which means you might have a difficult time connecting with him. This makes helping someone with depression difficult.
Bring him comfort foods
A pot of warm chicken noodle soup – or any comfort food – won’t cure depression, but it is a symbol of your love and support. Even if he doesn’t eat or look at the food he will still be aware that you’re there for him. Don’t force him to eat, or try to guilt him into eating. Just bring his favorite food and let him eat it if he wants.
If you want to cook with foods that are healthy and delicious, read 6 Foods Proven to Help Treat Depression.
Offer to help in practical ways
Does he need a babysitter, dog walker, house cleaner, or rides to the doctor? Maybe you could go beyond offering to help; you could just dig in and help out. This suggestion for helping someone with depression won’t work for everyone – some people might get irritated if you suddenly started cleaning their house or organizing their doctors’ trips!
Even so, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look around his house. If there’s dishes in the sink, maybe you could clean them up. If the dog is climbing the walls, maybe you could take him out for a romp. If the kids are bored, take them to the park.
Allow the process to unfold
Is your loved one depressed because of a death, disappointment, or loss? Depression and grief are normal emotions, and they need to unfold naturally. It takes time to grieve a loss or broken dream. It can be healthier to take time to grief and process pain than it is to bounce back too quickly.
There is a difference between grief and depression – and you’ll learn what the difference is when you read about depression. The symptoms of both are similar; the biggest difference may be the time it takes to heal.
Watch for signs of severe depression
Be alert for signs that he might harm himself or others. It can be difficult to determine if he’s that depressed, but it’s important to be aware of the possibility. Call a suicide hotline if you think he wants to harm himself, or if he’s talking about how meaningless and dark life is. Get information on ways to help someone with severe depression.
Be a consistent source of hope and faith
This is my favorite tip for helping someone with depression: stay present in his life. You don’t need to text or call every day, but it’s good to stay connected. How do you usually communicate with him? Don’t give up on him. Stay in contact.
Believe that he WILL come through this. Be hopeful and faithful in your belief that this is a stage of his life, and that it will end. Lift him up in prayer, and trust God that your friend will come through this period of depression. Be positive and encouraging, and stay involved in his life. Your presence is meaningful and valuable even if he doesn’t tell you how much you mean to him.
A prayer for helping someone with depression
May you be filled with peace and hope. I pray for strength to be positive, wisdom to know how to help, and joy that surpasses all understanding. May you have faith that God is with you, that He knows exactly what you are going through. May you be filled with the holy, pure love of Jesus – and may that love and light shine through you.
I pray for your depressed loved one, that he feels the strength and love of Jesus. May God touch his spirit and bring peace to his soul. May he find resources to help him cope with the depression, and may you walk alongside him as he journeys through this stage of his life. May he feel joy and hope once again, and may his life be filled with energy, power, and light.
If it’s fall or winter, your depressed friend might be dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Read What is SAD? Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Depression to learn more.
I welcome your thoughts on helping someone with depression, but I can’t offer advice. Please feel free to share your experience, as you may find clarity and insight as you write.