People who experience depression often benefit from the compassion shown by a trusted friend or relative. Many individuals feel uncomfortable interacting with someone who is depressed. They don't know what to say or do, so they avoid that person. Others become impatient and make statements like "snap out of it" or "It's time to pull up your big girl panties." People don't choose depression, and they can't snap out of it. If you want to help someone suffering from depression, offer them emotional and practical support.
How to Help Someone Suffering with Depression
Helping a loved one in mental distress can be as simple as listening and showing them appreciation and providing them with help on day to day tasks.
Sometimes it's not what you say but what you don't say. A depressed person needs someone to listen to them and validate their feelings. Let the person talk, cry or rage if they must. When you do talk offer reassurance by saying something like "Tell me about it," or "It's alright to cry." You can ask questions that help them sort out their feelings, "What's really bothering you?" or "Why do you think you are feeling like this?". What you do say can help them open up and express their feelings. Tell them that you're available to talk and listen at any time.
Depressed individuals lack self-confidence due to being out of control of their lives. You can encourage them through praise. Point out their positive qualities and accomplishments and reassure them that these low feelings are temporary. Invite them to take a walk even if it's just to the corner. The next day see if they can make it half-way around the block and around the whole block the following day. Give them lots of praise for their accomplishments no matter how small.
Human touch can make a person feel secure, safe and loved. A touch on the hand or a hug can go a long way to communicate positive feelings to the depressed person. If this individual is someone with whom you have a close relationship, you could offer to massage their head, feet, hands or shoulders. Use your judgment when touching the depressed person. Some people do not like being touched due to past trauma.
Laughter is the best medicine may be cliche but it's true. Rent a funny movie, pop some popcorn and spend some time having a laugh fest. Laughter releases mood lifting chemicals in the brain and relieves stress. If time permits, offer to spend the day throwing a comedy marathon. If the person can concentrate enough to read, buy them Harpo Speaks as seen below. I read it years ago, and it's by far the funniest book I've ever read. If your friend or relative can't concentrate, try reading it to them, and you can roll in laughter together.
If your friend or relative is depressed to the point of being dysfunctional, the simplest tasks can be impossible to perform. Offering to cook, clean or grocery shop can relieve the person of a lot of stress. If there are children to care for, offer to babysit. Take the kids to the park and out for ice cream. A child with a depressed parent feels alone and abandoned.
Depressed individuals want to isolate themselves from the world, but this is the one time in their lives when "alone time" won't benefit them. If you know of a depressed friend or relative, the simplest acts of kindness can go a long way to helping that person recover. At this time, they need someone to actively listen to them and not pass judgment. Validating their feelings, reassuring them and offering a comforting touch can help them on the road to recovery. Invite them to laugh with you. For the severely depressed, help them out with their everyday responsibilities. Remember that the children of depressed parents need love and comfort also. Encourage the person to seek medical treatment if they have not already done so.