Monday, 22 September 2014

How to help someone with depression

How to help someone with depression

Depression is such a horrible illness, and I have found that having supportive people around me has been one of the ways I have been able to cope. I know how hard it has been for my family and friends to deal with it, so if you know someone with depression I thought it may be helpful to have a few tips on how to help them. Obviously different things work for different people, but these are quite generic and common sense really, and a lot of them have been suggested by my mum, who has been a massive support for me.

Be there for them
This sounds really obvious but be there for the person as much as you can and make sure that they know you're there for them whenever they need someone. It makes me feel better just to know that I have people I can contact if need be, and that people care about me.

Show that you care
Don't just tell them that you care - show them. Depression makes it easy to not believe what people say, and actions definitely speak louder than words. Give them a hug whenever you see them; arrange lots of things to do with them; send them a random text telling them how much they mean to you; maybe even buy them some chocolate if you're feeling generous. Even the smallest things like someone inviting you to go for a drink can make you feel so much better - one of my problems is that I don't believe why anyone would ever want to be around me, so it's nice when I know that someone cares enough to spend time with me.

Give them something to get better for 
The things that keep me going are my family and my friends, as I feel like I should get better for them. I'm so lucky to have an amazing support network who I know want me to recover - everyone with depression should have this so that they feel like they have something to get better for. Don't ever say, "you shouldn't be depressed because you're so beautiful and you're an amazing person etc etc" because a person with depression probably won't believe this - I know I don't. It can also make me feel guilty, as I feel like I shouldn't feel like I do as my life is not bad at all. Give them hope, as hope is very sparse in the darkness of depression. My mum says that she tries to talk positively to me about things, no matter how small. Even a quick chat about what I'm going to have for dinner or how my dogs are can make a world of difference - sufferers of depression just need to know that there is something to keep living for.

Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance
I have discovered that I need loads of reassurance when I'm down. I find it difficult to believe people when they give me a compliment or reassure me that everything will be okay, but when it is repeated over and over it's hard not to start believing it. Reassure the person that you'll always be there for them and won't leave them; reassure them that they'll never be on their own. Let them know how amazing and beautiful they are, and never put them down when they are feeling low. My sister is incredible at this; the last time I was really upset she just sat with me and told me how she'd never leave me and that I always have people there for me.

Never judge them
Until you have been through depression, you have no idea what it feels like. Even other people suffering with depression don't know exactly what a fellow sufferer is going through. Listen to the person and don't be judgemental about their words or choices. They will need lots of support and criticising them really won't help - tell them that you are there for them whatever they do, and never tell them to "pull themselves together" or "cheer up". No one chooses to be depressed; it's an illness and these sort of words will just make it worse. And please don't tell them that they're just too sensitive or need to toughen up.

Don't blame yourself
I have found that some people close to me sometimes blame themselves for how I am feeling, as though they could have prevented it. However this can just make me feel worse as it makes me feel guilty, and I know that no one could have stopped the way that I've been feeling. Don't blame yourself as it's most likely not your fault - just be there for them.

Depression takes a long time to recover from and it can sometimes be very frustrating, both for the sufferer and the individuals around them. Be patient and always have hope that the person will improve, so that you can give them hope too. If they take a step back again just be even more encouraging and supportive, and always take the time to listen to everything they have to say, as they may just need to get something off their chest. Encourage them to talk, even if they don't want to - if they refuse just sit with them, maybe holding their hand, and let them know that you're there.

Don't analyse everything they say
This was one of my mum's inputs. Don't try to analyse every little things they say, because even if they may hurt you, their thoughts are not always rational. Mum has had to listen to me say that I want to hurt myself and that I don't want to be here anymore (which I discussed in this post), but she has found that she has to keep talking to me and help me feel better, as her saying "that's not fair" or "that hurt me" would just make me feel guilty and my mood would spiral downwards even more.

I hope this helps a few people, as I know depression is really common and most people seem to know someone that suffers with it. I think the most important thing is to just let the individual know that you are always there for them, no matter what, and to make time to do those little extra things that will make them feel loved.

Hannah x

Don't lose hope. When the sun goes down, the stars come out.

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