Living with depression can be crippling. It takes so much from you, leaving you feeling helpless. I was a child when I first started displaying signs of depression. I cried myself to sleep almost every night, I was angry and I felt alone and worthless. My depression became severe to the point where I started to self-harm and I struggled with suicidal ideation. There was a part of me that yearned for someone, anyone to just be there for me.
Over the years I started sharing my story across social media and on my blog to raise awareness and to let others know they’re not alone. I’ve been on both ends as far as living with a mental illness and supporting someone who lives with a mental illness. I can say from experience that it’s not easy to be on either side of the situation. When you’re living with depression, it can be nearly impossible to do everyday things and if you’re someone on the outside looking in, you may want to offer support but not know where to start.
Ways to Support Someone With Depression
Educate Yourself. Take time to learn about the symptoms of depression as well as causes and treatment options. It can be exhausting for someone with depression to continuously have to explain what we’re struggling with. It’s also important to know that symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Symptoms can include:
- A persistent feeling of sadness
- Loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed
- Low energy level
- Feeling hopeless, guilt, or worthlessness
- Irritability or anger
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Trouble concentrating or memory problems
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or moving slowly
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
Support them in seeking treatment. I know from personal experience that people with depression may be reluctant to seeking treatment. It’s common to feel ashamed about having depression but the truth is, there is no shame in getting help. Depression is a medical condition and oftentimes people need treatment to get better. You can support them by talking to them about the benefits of treatment, helping them find a doctor or mental health provider, and going along to appointments. Another thing that can help is assisting them in making a list of questions to ask during their appointment.
Let them know you’re there for them. It’s ok to express your concerns if you notice signs of depression. If they’re willing to open up to you, listen without judgment, and don’t offer advice unless they request it. Sometimes people just need someone who will listen.
Offer to help with daily tasks. When depression takes over, it can be difficult to do day-to-day tasks. It might not be easy for them to ask for help so take time to ask what they need help with.
Take care of yourself. Sometimes we want to put all our energy into supporting others and we forget about ourselves. It’s ok to want to be there for them but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Loving someone who struggles with depression can take a toll on your well-being if you’re constantly dropping everything for them. Set boundaries and carve out time for self-care.
My mom once told me when I was growing up and in one of the darkest parts of my depression, she felt like she had to walk on eggshells around me. I sometimes wonder how different things would have been if she knew how to support me back then. I spent many days contemplating suicide because I truly felt like death had to be better than life. For a person living with depression, knowing they have support makes a difference.