PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Some of my posts contain links to Amazon.com.
Photo Credit: © stokkete – Fotolia.com
You can find my original post, “Ten Ways to Love Someone With Depression”, HERE.
I actually found some of these (1-7) on Tumblr, where my post was cut and pasted here last year and currently has 373,210 notes. Not being active on Tumblr myself (but maybe I should be?), I was a bit shocked to say the least when I saw my own blog post suddenly appear on my dash! Being curious though, I read through some of the notes and they were very insightful. I decided I needed to include them when I wrote a follow up post, which I had planned to do much sooner than now. However, this last year turned out to be one of the hardest of my life, and ironically my own struggles with depression returned and for a while I stopped blogging completely.
Chances are you either have depression or you are close to someone who does. I hope you find something useful here.
1. Don’t tell them to just try to think positively.
From Tumblr: This is NOT helpful because depression is a mental illness, not just a negative outlook or a choice.
My thoughts: Yes to this. It feels unbelievably deflating when people who don’t understand what causes depression essentially blame you for bringing it on yourself by thinking the wrong thoughts. It feels like an accusation and only adds to the endless loop of self-destructive thoughts your friend or partner has running through his/her head. I do believe affirmations are a helpful part of a mental hygiene regimen, but chronic depression is a complicated disease involving body mind and soul. There is no “just” when it comes to managing it.
2. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you.
From Tumblr: Reaching out can feel impossibly daunting for someone with depression, even if they want company badly, so try to initiate time together as much as possible.
My thoughts: One of the biggest symptoms of depression is feelings of worthlessness. When someone feels worthless, they don’t reach out for company or help even though they need both desperately. They hide. Whether they stay home and cut themselves off of social interaction or hide behind a smile, if you suspect your friend or significant other is struggling, reach out to them.
3. Don’t diminish their experiences.
From Tumblr: Don’t diminish their experiences or feelings with stuff like “Everyone has bad days” or “I used to feel like you but I got through it”. These might be intended to help but they don’t.
My thoughts: Attempting to minimize someone’s problems doesn’t make the problem smaller. It makes people feel alienated and even more alone than they already felt. If you actually can relate to how they’re feeling, by all means share your experience so they know you can relate, but if you don’t have a mental illness then you can’t understand what it’s like.
4. Don’t make jokes about suicide or self harm.
From Tumblr: Don’t make jokes about suicide or self harm around your friend, as they may be struggling with those things and feel unsupported by those around them.
My thoughts: Don’t joke about suicide or self harm in front of anyone. Learn the warning signs and risk factors for suicide and if you have a friend you think might be at risk have them call 1-800-273-8255.
5. Don’t go too long without checking in.
From Tumblr: Expressing feelings can be hard when depressed, so initiate conversations by asking them how they’re doing and making yourself available as a listening ear. Don’t assume that they are okay just because they haven’t told you that they’re struggling.
My thoughts: This goes along with #2. Life can get busy, but if you notice you haven’t heard from someone you were close to in your social circle for a while, check on them. Blowing off social occasions is a classic depressed person’s coping mechanism. If they don’t feel up to going out offer to stay in with them.
6. Do start a conversation about sleep deprivation.
From Tumblr: Lack of sleep can trigger depression (or make it last longer), although it’s probably not the only cause. If you want to help a depressed person, you can also try to make sure they get enough sleep. Try to talk with them about it as kindly as possible and try to sort out together what in their life may cause sleep deprivation during their daily life. Look for what kinds of changes of habits may help them and let them try them out.
My thoughts: Just like people either overeat or don’t eat at all when they’re depressed, they may sleep all the time (or want to) or stay up all night. If your friend or significant other has tendencies toward depression and you see they aren’t taking care of themselves physically, talk to them about it. Don’t be parental, ultimately they are in charge of their own health, but express your concern if you see them posting on social media when the rest of the world is sleeping.
7. Do support them as much as you can.
From Tumblr: After that, the next step is to stay as supportive as possible while keeping in mind what’s mentioned above. It’s sometimes very hard, but it’s really something that can make big difference in their recovery. (source)
My thoughts: A good support system or lack thereof can be the thing that gets someone through a depressive episode in a month or two or keeps them there for years. Yes, let me repeat that. DEPRESSIVE EPISODES CAN LAST FOR YEARS. That is why I write about helping people when they’re depressed. Because one person sticking around and caring can be the difference between someone struggling through a hard time and coming out the other side stronger or staying stuck in a prison of the mind for a significant portion of their life.
8. Do educate yourself.
If you know what is and isn’t typical behavior for someone with depression you may be able to direct your friend or significant other to get help before they even realize they need it. Symptoms for men and women can be different. Symptoms in children can be different from those in older people. This is a significant enough issue in Western Society that we should all know what to look for.
9. Do take care of yourself.
You know the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else? Being in a close relationship with someone who struggles with a mental illness can be exhausting. If you don’t take time to recharge, it can lead to burn out, anger and resentment. People may end up giving up on their relationships because of this. Take time to recharge, keep doing things you enjoy, surround yourself with a support system and if you feel you need it, seek out therapy or a support group for yourself.
10. Do encourage them to seek help.
I have received email after email from people asking me what they should do for their severely depressed friend or significant other who doesn’t seem to want to get better. The answer is that in the end, you can’t make them better. Don’t take responsibility for someone else’s mental health. That’s co-dependent. You can help them, you can be their support and you can love them, but if they are going to get better they have to get help from a qualified professional.
Photo Credit: © stokkete – Fotolia.com