Even if you haven’t experienced depression or another mental health condition in your life, chances are someone close to you has. As tricky as it can be to navigate the dark waters of depression or anxiety for those living with it, it can also be hard for friends and loves ones to know how to support someone going through it.
I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
Where do I draw the line between encouragement, tough love to get them moving, and just letting them rest and recover?
How can I relate if I’ve never been through it myself?
These thoughts can race through your mind when someone you love has depression and you’re trying your best to help them.
That’s why I reached out to members of The One Project to learn more about their experiences and how they’ve been best supported by friends and family in their mental health journey. You might notice some common themes in their responses:
We need someone to listen.
We need someone to be there for us.
We need friends and connections with people who care.
These are our stories.
I get it. You find out your daughter, your spouse, or your best friend is depressed. And you have no idea how you’re supposed to act. The easiest option is probably not to talk about it too much. It’s awkward. You don’t know what to say, what not to say. So, you say nothing. You offer initial support but after that you avoid the topic entirely.
I’m diagnosed with major depressive disorder and believe me, I’m not mad or disappointed in you. We all avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable. But if you’re reading this, you want to be different. You want to be that friend, that spouse, that parent who’s there for your loved one. So first of all, thank you. Thank you for having the courage to be uncomfortable and sit with us in our pain. Here are some ideas that I have found helpful on my own depression journey.
- Ask us how we’re doing. It’s OK — you don’t have to avoid the subject. Whether or not you ask, our depression is still going to be a reality for us. But having someone check in on us is a reminder that someone cares. And sometimes, that makes all the difference.
- Give us the space to say no. Families and friends often invite us to do things and sometimes, we’re just not up to it. Please don’t make us feel guilty. Depression is an exhausting illness, with myriad symptoms that can hit us out of nowhere. Sometimes, even though we love you and want to make you happy, we just don’t have the energy to do things.
- Let us know you support us. Having a mental illness can make you feel vulnerable, and knowing we have your support can mean the world. Sometimes just saying “I’m here for you,” is enough. A few weeks ago, a friend knew I was struggling and bought me a candle and it made feel seen and loved. Lots of times, living with depression is lonely. But when we feel your support, we’re reminded that we are not alone.
Loving someone with depression is hard. And sometimes we may not respond the way you want when you reach out. But the effort you’re making matters so much. You’re our allies and many times the reason we get up and try again every day.
— Hope Cornelius
The best way someone has supported me this month is by simply listening. — Kelly Love
In my experience, the best way of supporting others is just being there. Sometimes you can’t comfort or support them physically, but just letting them know that you’re a shoulder to cry on and a friend to rely on will speak volumes.
I took this photo today as I walked in downtown Chicago with my friends and I realized that people are just like birds.
You take control of your life when you take flight, just like a bird. You settle and rest for a bit because the journey is a long and arduous one, but at the end of the day, you get to your destination. All this is done by you and you alone. Nevertheless, it’s always nicer to have someone beside you to feel their presence even when you don’t need their help. You glide easier because you know that they’ll glide with you through the breeze.
Being there for someone is a big way to support and comfort them and I think that the beauty in it is that the simplest actions have the most meaning.
— Irisha Banal
Here is another 35 mm photo from a few weeks back. It was a peaceful moment, surrounded by a couple of unique, kind souls. I don’t have ‘real’ friends — mainly due to anxiety and a lack of social interactions — but that afternoon it seemed like I did. And I’m grateful for that unusual sensation.
— Célia Schouteden
Depression can be debilitating, and it affects each person differently. I think it’s human nature to want to help and fix a ‘problem’ as quickly as possible, to see our loved ones happy and thriving once again. Unfortunately, the road to healing with depression takes time, and when you’re going through it you don’t necessarily want unsolicited advice or tips on what you should be doing differently.
We just want to know that you’re there for us.
We want you to listen.
Remind us you love us no matter what. Remind us there’s no judgement. Remind us you care. Sometimes sitting or walking in silence can be the ultimate support.
While we hope these stories can help guide you in supporting your loved ones, the most powerful way that you can help them is by asking one question:
How can I help you?
Even if they’re not sure at the moment, tell them that’s OK and just be there. Listen.
Thank you for being a supporter and working to be a better ally. We need you!
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
DEPR-US-NP-00053 FEBRUARY 2019