When my episode of depression was bad and I wasn’t on the right medication, there were many things that would trigger me to spiral and want to hide in my room. Friends who I would reached out to and vent to on many occasions didn’t know what to say or tried to deny I really had depression. When someone has depression what you say to them really matters. What you say could cause them to pull away from you or worse. There are many things people should not do when they are trying to be there for a person with depression. I complied a list of a 10 helpful things you can do for a person diagnosed with depression and the said person is getting help professionally. (Getting diagnosed and getting a therapist are things which have to happen and there is no “ifs, and, or buts” about it. It is the only way they will get better from their illness.)
- Do not give advice. sometimes we have an impulse to try to fix people’s problems.Someone who is diagnosed with depression is not someone you can try to fix. The advice you give will be taken as minimizing their pain, this is because the brain is not working and is distorting what you say to mean something negative. This is called cognitive distortion and are in my opinion the worst part about depression. You should not give advice because you are not a professional trained to help them, and what you say can be very insulting because you are going off of how your brain and thoughts work. You have no idea what the sick person can control or not control. In addition, generally we aren’t looking for advice. We just want someone to listen and be there for us.
- Do not say “just think positive.” If the person wanted to they would. the person with depression would love to have their thoughts stop hurting them. It’s common in depression for self-loathing to develop and in my experience the self-loathing thoughts have gotten better once we found the right medication. At times, it will be impossible for the person to think good things simply because their brain is not functioning properly.
- Do not ignore them. If they reach out to you to vent, they just want you to listen and to provide some comfort. When they are ignored they feel more insignificant and the lies depression tells them seems to be true. The worst thing you can do is ignore them. How would you feel if you reached out for help and the person decided you weren’t worth their time and they didn’t care enough to try to help. I had times when I would hide under my bed and cry; I would text my friends, but no one would care and I would be ignored. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say or how to help, you can say that to them and ask them what they need. Ignoring them is an awful thing to do. If you are overwhelmed, think of they must feel and how you aren’t the one going through a serious mental illness. Ignoring someone who needs help is the worst thing you can do. you make them feel more insignificant than how they already feel and make them feel like no one cares. you just confirm cognitive distortions. you make the lies depression tells seem true.
- Do research on depression. depression entails many things and you need to be able to discern when your friend’s depression is talking and when your friend is talking. You need to understand your friend will be difficult at times. depression includes being irritable and getting angry. I use to get angry for no reason, during those times i would avoid people. however, there were times I thought I had a reason for my anger and unfortunately sometimes that anger got released on some of my friends. it will probably happen no matter what the depressive does, but you as friend need to be able to pick out when they are having mental issues and not take what they say personally. Research is one of the most important things you can do.
- Do not take what a depressed person does or says personally. This person is sick and may very well try to push you away at times. They will say ridiculous things, but understand it is their illness talking. they will get mad and be in bad mood, but do not take it personally. My best friend would leave me alone for few hours and then comeback and check on me. she knew after a few hours I would be back to myself again. They will say things out of anger, helplessness, and worthlessness. If they are attacks on you do not take them personally. Instead, you may want to discuss them with the depressive, but understand there is depression and there is your friend. You have to know when it’s their illness talking. Try not to take anything negative they say personal.
- Reassure them that you love them and will not leave them. Depression lies and the cognitive distortions make everything confusing. They will likely question your friendship with them or one day just feel like you hate them. Depression lies and tells them they are unlovable, boring, and their friends just pity them. It can also make them feel like perhaps they are not wanted, or if they let anyone in they will leave.
- Do not invalidate their feelings. Some of things they may get upset about may be minor, but understand in depression a little bump in the road seems like a mountain. Invalidating someone’s feeling does not help at all. it never has, even with healthy people.
- Do not compare a bad day you had to depression. Depression is worse than a bad day, depression is an actual illness. It’s like comparing a scrape to a broken leg. This statement would probably fall under invalidating their feelings.
- Be honest with them. Do not say you will be there for them and not be. tell them what you are willing to help with. Perhaps you can’t handle the depressive being open about their feelings, but you are able to help out with their laundry and hang out with them then be honest with them. This also means if they ask if they are being annoying then answer truthfully. The last thing they want is to be a burden to people. In addition, you have to be honest because you will have to correct some of the cognitive distortions they will get.
- Most importantly be patient. Every thing I listed above requires great patience. you have to be patient with your friend.They are sick after all.
Stay tuned, I plan on composing a part two to this topic and trying to help spread understanding and awareness of this mental illness. I hope this helps others be there for their friend like how some of mine were there for me.