You probably know the statistics by now, that one in four people will experience mental health issues this year. Chances are, you know someone – a friend, a family member, a colleague, a partner, a son or daughter – who is living with depression or anxiety or any other of a variety of mental health issues. It can be hard to know how to help them and even harder to feel helpless in their difficult journey. But there are things that can help.
Depression has as many different forms as people who live with it. It looks different for each of us. With that said, not everything listed on this post will help every person. Some of them are things that people have done for me; some of them are things I wish someone would have done for me. Either way, I hope they will be a starting point for knowing where to begin in supporting someone you care about as they experience a difficult period of mental illness. If you are reading this and have other suggestions, please do pop them in the comments so we can share as many ways as possible to help people.
When all is said and done, the thing that matters most is that you try. A person living with depression will most likely believe they are uncared for or don’t matter. Things may be tricky for a time, but don’t give up on them, please. Show them you care, however you can, and be assured: that will make such a difference.
Little Things You Can Try to Help a Friend with Depression
Speak to them like a normal person. They are not unintelligent. Don’t speak down to them. Speak to them like you always have done.
Don’t try to avoid the matter. Ignoring a dark day doesn’t make it go away. Tackle it head on.
Cook them their favourite meal. Cooking takes energy they may not have. Help make eating easier for them by doing the cooking for them.
Open their curtains if they haven’t done it themselves.
If you love them, tell them so. Their brain may just be convincing them that you do not. Tell them. And then tell them again.
Try to make them laugh. Funny dog gifs, Friends episodes, terrible jokes – whatever might elicit a giggle.
Still invite them to things. They may not want to go or feel confident enough to step out just yet, but the invite matters. They will probably feel excluded from the world; don’t exclude them even more.
Don’t push for a why – there might not be one. Don’t feel like you have to fix everything – you might not be able to. Just try. Just care.
Offer to do something they like. A walk, a film, baking, art.
Hold them while they cry.
Be there. Do not make the promise and then not turn up. Physically be there, even if it’s just to sit with them in silence or hold their hand or coax them out of bed. Show up.
Give them something. Flowers, a cake, a hug, a card, something you saw in a shop you thought they might like. Let them know you are thinking about them.
Talk to them. Call them. Text them. Message them. Days of no contact can sometimes feel like the end of something and a confirmation of the brain’s lies.
Ask them what they need. It might be a hug. It might be something else. Just ask.
Don’t tell them it’s all in their head, or that people are worse off than them, or that maybe if they just did this one thing it would all be better. Acknowledge the realness and the depth of it.
Remember this is temporary. Remember this is not all that they are. Remind them that this is temporary. Remind them that this is not all that they are.
Love them through it. They are your friend. They matter. Don’t let them forget that. They might not believe they are good, so believe it for them until they can again.