If someone you love is dealing with depression you might feel helpless, confused, overwhelmed, hopeless, frustrated, or even angry. You simply might not know what to do.
We’ve rounded up tips on how to be there for your loved one from Health Stories Project community members who suffer from depression. Here’s what they had to say:
Listen. Offer an ear and your empathy without judgment or unrealistic advice.
“Depression feels like a hole. When you are in it you can’t see the other side. So, when a friend or family member insists that we focus on a brighter side that we can’t see, they aren’t being helpful. People tend to want to ‘fix’ problems, but support can be just listening without offering advice.” — Amanda
“Never say, ‘Oh things will get better.’ Simply let them know you are there for them; and you have to mean it.” — RLA
“Listen to them. Tell them you understand that they don’t feel like doing anything, let alone going and talking with strangers about it. Ask them what they need help with. Offer to take them for help and to see a therapist. Let them know all therapists are people, too. Some therapists even have been diagnosed with depression. I am a therapist and that’s how I know all about what depression is and what it feels like from the inside out. Let them know it’s good for them to find a therapist they like, so they feel comfortable talking with them.” — Juliet
Be understanding and supportive — not just emotionally, but practically too.
“People need understanding and support instead of judgment and criticism. Respect their needs and boundaries.” — Lorraine
“Support is vital; so is encouragement and medication reminders.” – Michele
“A small act of kindness, coupled with patience, can make my day. Engaging in empathetic listening without trying to ‘fix us’ can make a world of difference.” — Bonnie
“Just be patient with them. If you text or call your loved one once a day it could make their day. “ — Drake
“Be supportive. Offer to accompany them to daily appointments and errands (for a limited time). Be available to talk, accept what they tell you (it’s his/her mind) and make frequent phone calls to show support, even if they are brief. Encourage therapy!” — Lydia
“Support them and don’t lie to them. Don’t treat them as if they are crazy and stupid.” – Tina
“Be there for them — don’t let them be alone.” — Tracy
“Hug me, help me with things that need to be done, and text just to ask me how I am doing.” — Sandy
“Be supportive with love and compassion, and refrain from telling them what they need. Offer suggestions only.” — Lewellyn
Educate yourself about depression and other mental illnesses. The more you know, the more of an ally you can be.
“Educate, educate, educate! Educate yourself and share with everyone you know. Advocate for people suffering from different types of mental illnesses all over the world. No two people will suffer the same way even with the same diagnosis(s). Again, educate, pray, and share, and you will be helping stop the stigma.” — Anita
“I am starting to become part of the neurodiversity movement. People need to understand that what we have is just a disability that requires us to learn coping skills to manage it, just like anyone else. Loved ones need to educate themselves on the condition and how it affects people.” — Bonnie
“Learn, be patient and accepting, lose the criticism, don’t badger, and helpfully support healthy activity and self-care. Do it with your family member and work together towards both of your health goals. Don’t treat the other like they’re the one with the ‘problem.’ Don’t make the other feel like they are a burden.” — Philip
“Learn more about mental illness and be patient. I didn’t have much support because it wasn’t talked about and folks explained it as weakness and a failure. I know different now.” — Kathy
Find help for yourself too. Therapy and support groups offer a place to express your feelings and learn how to cope.
“I grew up with a schizophrenic mother. I was just told she was sick. It wasn’t until high school that I realized just how bad things were. There really wasn’t anything I could do and it left me feeling really helpless. Just keep in mind that it is an illness. It’s OK to talk to someone — you are not alone.” — Alisa
Always remember to see your loved one as more than their illness.
“Accept us for who we are and quit focusing on who you think we should be.” — Bonnie
“Treat them as a whole person, not just a label. Don’t use their diagnosis as an excuse, but it can help you understand and empathize with them. The weaknesses can be built into strengths; for example, once I learned I did not make eye contact, I could start practicing it.” — Chris
“Tell your loved one with this condition that you love them and can see them and you know they are not their symptoms; those symptoms are medically treatable so they can feel like themselves again.” — Juliet