• Samantha Lehmann

11 ways to help someone suffering depression

When I suffered a bout of depression, I felt blindsided. It came out of the blue. I had battled weeks of untreated anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and racing thoughts, all of which were incredibly debilitating, but depression was all consuming.

If you have been fortunate enough to avoid this incapacitating condition, it is difficult to understand how it feels. Describing depression is impossible. I could tell you that it was like falling into a bottomless pit with neither the hope nor will to climb out. I could tell you it was like being smothered in a blanket of lethargy, loathing and despair, but even these words are inadequate.

Now I am a fairly positive outgoing person, so when I felt like crying all the time, hiding away at home and not wanting to see anyone, it was frightening. More terrifying was the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t ‘snap out of it’. I had no control over this.

Friends and acquaintances were shocked that someone like me could suffer from depression. Responses from people who didn’t understand or didn’t know how to handle the situation did not help; some people avoided me, and some said unhelpful things that made me retreat further.

It’s difficult for people who have never experienced anxiety and/or depression; I get that. However, just as you would empathise and try and help someone who is experiencing a physical disease such as cancer, so should you try and respond to someone who is suffering a mental condition such as depression. Both are life-threatening. Suicide statistics prove that.

What did help (apart from time and rest) was the practical support I got from others as well as the messages, phone calls, cards and gifts from friends, letting me know I was loved and cared for.

So, how can you help? What can you do or say to make things easier?

SAY

  1. I'm so sorry you are feeling this way. I'm here for you anytime. Mean it and follow through on it.

  2. If you need to see a doctor or counsellor, I’m happy to drive you. Sometimes the effort of making or keeping appointments is overwhelming. An offer to drive someone to their appointment can be the difference between recovery or slipping further down the slope of depression.

  3. I want to help and support you while you heal, please let me know what I can do.Whether it’s assisting with children, housework, preparing meals or just menial day-to-day tasks, offering help and following through can stop a sufferer from feeling like their life is spiralling out of control.

  4. I will sit with you and hug you and love you right through this difficult time. Do it. Do it long and often. Words are not needed. Never underestimate the power of touch.

DO

  1. Organise a few healthy home-cooked meals. Someone suffering from depression might have a very low appetite so ask them what they feel like eating and organise meals or snacks that need minimal prep.

  2. Be patient. Depression may seem intangible, but it is real and it takes time to recover. You wouldn’t expect someone who had a broken leg to walk within two weeks, so don’t expect someone who has depression to improve in a short period of time.

  3. Be objective. Don't take it personally. Your depressed loved one’s emotions may be erratic for a while, up one day, down the next. Don’t expect them to go back to themselves quickly and try not to feel like you are responsible for their emotions.

  4. Buy them something that will help.A calming, relaxing colouring book or a warm, soft blanket to wrap themselves in when they need soothing could be a wonderful gift. There are many gifts to cheer someone up and so many get well soon baskets, but choose thoughtfully. Our Empathy gift boxes have been created by carefully selecting items that will assist the recovery process.

  5. Keep in touch regularly.It might be difficult or frustrating, but it’s important. 1-2 times a week is fine. Don’t judge or offer advice; it just puts pressure on them. Try small talk or deeper conversations, but be guided by their needs, not your level of discomfort or need to fix things.

  6. Just be there. Depression can be isolating because there are no physical symptoms. Let them know they are not alone and that you believe they will get better.

  7. Don't judge. Your loved one didn’t choose their condition any more than a leukaemia sufferer chooses theirs. Stand by them and support them.

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