Difficulties Reaching Out When Experiencing Depression
Experiencing the symptoms of depression are draining and exhausting. It takes courage, strength, and stamina to constantly push through the days where even getting out of bed is a hassle. Because depression is different for everyone, self-care, self-help, and support also vary depending on each individual’s needs. What is best for you might not be best for me? So, how does one ask for help based on their needs? Also, how does one communicate to others the most effective ways to support them?
Interacting with others is one of the most difficult challenges for those experiencing depression. Does anyone care? Do I even need/want this help? Communicating one’s needs or simply helping a loved one with depression takes patience and empathy. Attempting to explain to others how difficult it is to function as a person with depression is not only difficult but also scary. It takes knowing yourself, loving yourself, and wanting/accepting help to even get to the first step.
What are ways you can help a loved one with depression? How can you support them and their needs to recovery and healing?
Communication and Depression
Attempting to help your loved ones or people you know with depression takes bravery and courage. If you haven’t experienced depression for yourself, it’s often difficult to know what to say or how to manage and love your loved one through their symptoms. You may become frustrated and say whatever you think will automatically “fix” them, blurt out a phrase that negatively triggers their symptoms, or even want to “give up” trying helping them. What are productive and effective ways to communicate with others with depression? How can we be better supporters?
What Not to Say
A productive and proactive first step in becoming the best support for your loved one is to know what to say but most importantly know what not to say.
Here are some phrases/gestures to avoid when trying to communicate with someone experiencing depression:
- “Just be happy.”
- “You’re too smart to be depressed.”
- “Get over it.”
- “It’s all in your head.”
- “Go to therapy already.”
- “Don’t be depressed.”
- “Stop being lazy and get up.”
- “You should try harder.”
- “Stop acting like this.”
- “What’s wrong with you?”
- “Shake it off.”
- “You’re just in a phase.”
- “You’re just discouraged, you’ll be ok tomorrow.”
- “You’re affecting your family with how you are acting.”
- “Just don’t think about it”
- “You’re with me so you should be happy.”
- “Go outside and do something.”
- “You’ll be ok.”
- “Other people have it worse”
- “Just be grateful.”
- “You have so much, why are you even sad?”
- …blank stare
Although some of these responses seem harmless, when one has depression they tend to think negatively about themselves. It’s also difficult for them to “switch off” their mood based on who they are with or what they are doing. Responses that are dismissive, lack compassion and are demanding, reveal disinterest or annoyance, or show a lack of love or care sting the most and often lead to the person feeling more depressed and alone. Avoid comparing them or their situation to others, making them feel less than or like they’re being dramatic or pushing them to feel bad for feeling like they do.
In order to become a better supporter, it is most important to be mindful of what you say, how you are saying it, and the intent behind what you are saying. Think before you speak. Your presence will not automatically heal that person nor will empty phrases and careless attempts at what you think will make them feel better. In order to help them, get to know them and what they like, and be comfortable and confident to ask them what they need and try your best to help in those vulnerable areas.
Ways That Can Help
If someone with depression has opened up to you about their struggles try to be empathetic, open-minded, compassionate, and gentle. Listen to them. Ask them how you can help. Be present and mindful of how you are reacting to their vulnerability.
If you are unsure of what to say or do, try these phrases or gestures if applicable:
- “I’m here if you need me.”
- “Do you want to (insert favorite activity)?”
- “Do you need me to come over?”
- “What can I do to help?”
- “You are brave, strong, courageous, and I know you can beat whatever is making you depressed.”
- “Do you want to talk?”
- “Remember to breathe deep breaths, and remember you are in control.”
- “You got this.”
- “What are you thinking about?”
- “Remember that your negative thoughts aren’t true.”
- “You are stronger than those thoughts.”
- Sit with them even if it’s in silence.
- Hug them if they enjoy hugs.
- Ask them how they are feeling.
- Send them a thoughtful text message/meme/quote/article of something you know can make them smile.
- Let them know you are available.
- Send/give them a gift that helps them feel loved and appreciated. Consider buying them self-care items they love!
- Put their favorite comfort food by their bed if they don’t want to get out of bed.
- Remind them how strong they are and all they’ve overcome.
- Create something for them. Create something that helps them to think a little more positively about themselves.
- Remind them that you love them and believe in their recovery, healing, and will stand by their side.
- Ask them if they want to meditate or do a breathing exercise with you.
- Put their favorite TV show on and sit with them.
Remember that each person is different, they show symptoms differently, and might even need to see a therapist. Help them do so if they need to. What you are able to do is all to the extent that they accept help. Don’t beat yourself up if they are not responding to your attempts at support, you are only human too. Trying compassionate gestures is more heroic then harming them with frustration and toxic phrases.
Thank you to those who love others through their depression. Thank you to those who fight with their loved ones helping them heal daily. You all are heroes.
To those who are in a battle with depression (myself included), I applaud your bravery and strength to keep going every day. Remember to be gentle with your journey and never give up. You are loved, appreciated and needed in this world. Your life is precious and so is your story. You are a hero every time you take on another day. When you look at yourself know that you are a warrior with a purpose. Your purpose is sacred and so is your life. If you need some help don’t be afraid to ask for it. There are people who are more than happy to help you.
Nina is a Latina from Brooklyn, NY who struggles with depression and anxiety. She finds refuge and healing through her writing since she graduated from college in 2016. Nina writes to spread awareness and hope to those who struggle with their mental health silently. She also strives to motivate and encourage self-acceptance. She enjoys creating creative and uplifting content on her blog SparklyWarTanks.com where she shares her experiences, notes, poems, quotes, and articles