A little sunshine can work wonders!
In the wake of the news of Robin Williams taking his life and the wave of attention that depression and suicide have in turn received (both good and bad), I thought it would be helpful to address depression in a more helpful manner.
We can discuss and debate the cause and nature of depression, but I think what would be more beneficial is for us to stop and really consider how we can help those who are struggling with depression, regardless of how we think depression works or if it is a disease or not.
So, without further adieu – I present my Top Ten ways to support someone with depression.
1. Get informed. NAMI and NIMH are both great places to start. In today’s age of information access, ignorance is no excuse.
2. Be kind. Just treat someone who struggles with depression like a human being.
3. Don’t assume, ask. Don’t make assumptions about their internal or cognitive state, just ask.
4. Be willing to take action or to give space. Sometimes someone struggling with depression needs a friend to push them to get out or to watch a movie with or help them get to the doctor. Other times, they just need someone to assure them that they are there and will be there when they are ready to engage.
5. Stay away from cliché remarks (or be honest about them). I’ll be honest, I’m the worst at this one. So I just admit it and move on. Honesty, once again, is the best policy.
6. If you don’t know what to say, say nothing (or that you simply don’t know what to say). This could easily be 5b. If we are at a loss for words, silence is often the best option. That, or just let the person know that you do not know what to say, other than that you care about them.
7. Keep the topic off yourself or your cousin. It’s human nature to want to associate other’s experiences with something that we are familiar with. Resist the temptation. That last thing a person who is depressed needs is to hear how your second cousin once removed once felt depressed and then bought a gold fish and everything was better. Just don’t.
8. Be patient. There may be minutes (or even hours) just sitting in silence or with just a few words spoken. Depression causes a cognitive fog that can be hard to get out of, so be patient. Sometimes it may take a while for someone to respond or share their needs. Hang in there with them.
9. Encourage them to get out doors (see above picture). Being outside, even for a short walk or sitting on the porch, can help push back against the fog of depression. Even just a few moments can be helpful.
10. Keep at it, even if rebuffed. Keep the focus on them, not you and your feelings. Once again this is a human nature thing. We have a tendency to get our feelings hurt when others do not respond to our bids of help. When someone is depressed, they may not see those bids or even have the energy or self-esteem to respond. Keep the focus on caring and support. It is not personal, it is the depression. Do not get tired of reaching out.
11. Bonus: remember that depression isn’t logical. This adds on to number 10 as well. Someone who struggles with depression may float in and out of logical thinking. Yes, that is frustrating and makes helping them more difficult, but that’s the truth. Remember this fact and it will help you see their feelings and behaviors in a different context.
12. Extra Bonus: Know when to reach out and get others involved. If you are unsure what to do, you can always call the national help line at 1.800.273.8255. You can also check out their website here.
Any others that you would add? Just leave them in the comment below.
Thanks for reading, and be well! (And enjoy some John Denver!)