We’ve all been affected by depression in one way or another. Even if you haven’t experienced depression yourself, you’ve witnessed a loved one go through it, which is often just as difficult. You may find yourself in a situation where you want to help but you’re not sure what to say or do. I hope this list serves as a helpful guide. Here is a list of 5 do’s and don’ts when someone you love is depressed:
1 | Do check up on them
Depression often leads to isolation. Don’t take it personally if your loved one doesn’t want to go out with you on a Friday night. Chances are, they just don’t have the energy! Offer to bring over their favorite food and have a Netflix night. Socializing, even in small doses, can really help someone get out of a depressive state. If they really don’t want to socialize, offer to talk on the phone or FaceTime. Maybe they just need to vent.
2 | Don’t forget to take care of yourself
As an empath, I sometimes find myself emotionally drained after talking to a depressed friend for hours. It can be easy to absorb their energy and become depressed yourself. Now you’ve got 2 depressed people! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take care of a loved one, but you can’t neglect your own needs. That means getting enough sleep, eating well, focusing on school or work…the basic things. It also means knowing when to take a break and have some alone time. It can be hard to walk away from a depressed loved one but just reassure them that you’ll be back soon.
3 | Do give them time
Everybody heals at their own pace. Maybe you’ve been through a depressive episode that lasted 3 days but your loved one has been depressed for 3 weeks, or vice versa. It’s important to be patient when a loved one is depressed. Nobody would choose to be depressed for a long period of time, but sometimes that’s just the way it works out. Remind your loved one that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
4 | Don’t downplay their pain
If you saw someone with a physical injury, you probably wouldn’t doubt that they’re in pain. So why do we doubt the pain of depressed people? All throughout history, and all over the world, physical illnesses have been considered more serious than mental illnesses. However, if you asked someone with a mental illness “Is it painful?”, they would probably answer yes. Mental illness is simply painful in a different way. So when talking to a loved one with depression, avoid statements that downplay or minimize their pain. Just a few examples to avoid: “It’s all in your head!” “You have nothing to be sad about!” “Happiness is a choice!” Instead, you can say things like “Stay strong” and “I’m here for you.”
5 | Do ask them what they need
We all have different wants and needs. We all have things that help us feel better. One of the kindest things you can ask a depressed loved one is “What can I do to help?” They might say “Could you throw my clothes in the washer?” or “Would you mind washing my dishes?” Simple tasks like laundry or dishes can seem daunting when someone is in a state of depression. They might have very low energy and feel more depressed every time they look at that pile of clothes or dirty dishes in the sink. Helping out with these simple tasks will make them feel loved and less stressed. And who knows? Maybe all they need is a cup of tea.
I hope these do's and don'ts help you in your interactions with a loved one who lives with depression. They are lucky to have you in their life! Now I'd love to hear from you! What strategies have helped in supporting a depressed friend, partner or family member? What totally backfired? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and be well!
about the author
Hi, I'm Lucy! A psychology student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Upon graduation, I plan to pursue child and adolescent therapy. When I'm not chugging coffee and studying, I love to sing, write music, bake, watch reality TV, and hang out with my dog.