For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are now shorter and colder, and all around the world, second lockdowns have begun as second (or even third) waves of COVID hit different areas, so I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of ways to support someone in your life who may be experiencing depression. INCOMING DISCLAIMER…
I am NOT a mental health professional and I cannot provide anyone with mental health support (especially when I can barely keep my own shit together) but I do have a platform and I can share my own experiences as someone diagnosed on the OCD Spectrum, ADHD spectrum, with generalized anxiety, mild depression, excoriation disorder, and chronic migraines. This list was curated by taking information I learned from my own doctors and therapists, as well as answers from a community ask that I put out on my Instagram stories a few weeks ago.
- REACH OUT AND CHECK IN: Instead of texting, “how are you”, try “how are you feeling”, or “how is your heart/mind/spirit”, or “sending you love”, without expecting or pushing for an immediate response or offering your unsolicited advice. You can also help them feel included (but not pressured) by extending loose and open invitations to social gatherings (online or outdoors for now, of course) without guilt-tripping them if they don’t show up. Keeping things low key is key.
- LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGEMENT: Just be there and listen without criticizing, or minimizing, or comparing their experience to your own. Also be understanding if they don’t feel like talking about their depression and don’t press for, or share, personal information that could be triggering. DO: Validate their feelings with phrases like, “I am sorry. That sounds really tough.” DO NOT: Tell anyone to “just think happy thoughts” or ignore them if they express that they’re not doing well, even if you can’t be there for them in the interm.
- SHARE GIFTS AND SERVICES: If providing emotional support is not your strength, small gestures like sending a good old fashioned snail-mail card, or helping with every day tasks can go a long way. Depressed people aren’t lazy or unmotivated — they’re depressed. So, try sending someone a meal, emptying their dishwasher, offering to walk their dog, and ask how you can help them instead of saying, “here if you need me” because this takes the responsibility of reaching out off the depressed person who may feel shame around seeming needy. Most people who need help won’t ask for it.
- RESEARCH AND MAKE A PLAN: Educate yourself about depression and other mental health disorders and neuro-divergencies so you can better understand and support them and their diagnosis. While (again) you should never provide unsolicited advice (glad your gluten-free diet and yoga helps you lady, but it’s prescriptions and talk therapy for me, thank you very much) you can ask them if they have a plan for treatment like therapy and medication. Try helping them by giving them a ride to a clinic or by being available for a call after an assessment or an appointment.
- PRACTICE SELF CARE: While you should never make their depression about you, or take it personally, it is still necessary to take care of yourself before you attempt to help others. You don’t need to be available for others 24/7 and setting boundaries is extremely important. Try creating a code word they can text you if they’re in absolute crisis-mode and/or create a schedule for when you are available to check-in or take their calls. And remember: you can’t “fix” anyone. Their healing is not your responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t care about them and aid them along the way either.
I hope that sharing comprehensive list will provide some insight and perhaps help you feel less alone in supporting your loved ones through these difficult times. Stay safe and healthy out (or very much inside) there!