When someone you love is dealing with depression, the best thing you can do is simply listen. Don't give advice; it really doesn't help. Much of what you have to say, they already know.
Depression is scary — you know all the answers, but you don't have the capacity to feel or do anything. Depression is a serious illness and no amount of exercise, spirituality or encouragement will alleviate the symptoms.
So just listen. Ask questions. Let them explain how they feel. Acknowledge the reality and severity of depression and express your sincere interest in their battle.
It's OK to say "I'm sorry" and "I wish I could help more." Empathize with your loved one, but never judge or belittle the struggle.
2. Don't leave them alone
Keep close tabs on your loved one dealing with depression. Have they been to a doctor? Are they taking their medication? Are they going to counseling? Ask these questions and make sure they are getting the medical attention they need.
It is VERY frustrating to work with doctors and counselors to find the appropriate treatment for depression, and sometimes it takes months to find the best medication or therapy. So don't let them give up! Depression cannot be healed by ignoring it.
If someone you love is struggling with depression, do your best to learn all you can. This will enable you to be more effective and educated in helping them through their struggles.
4. Strive to uplift
Be cautious about what you share with those dealing with depression.
One evening I talked on the phone with three different friends and relatives who all spoke about their struggles, breakups and failures. After hanging up the phone from my third conversation that night I felt an immediate wave of total despair and hopelessness, falling into an episode of really intense anxiety and depression.
Be aware that depression already creates an internal world of sadness, negativity and despair in the lives of those who suffer. So be cautious and sensitive.
One thing you can do to help is to infuse light into their lives. Share positive, uplifting experiences and stories. Send funny pictures and videos. You can talk about the hardships of your life, but include the good stuff too and always remain positive and hopeful.
For those dealing with mental illness, the future seems daunting; so try to keep conversation focused on day-to-day events and happenings. Try not to add more pressure to an already-overbearing load of emotions and fears.
5. Understand the limits
There are many things that make dealing with depression easier. For example, it helps me to spend time outside, to be around family and to read terribly sad, true stories that make my life seem a whole lot better. However, none of the things I choose to do actually heal or alleviate the depression. The illness is a chemical imbalance in my body that needs legitimate treatment through medication and cognitive therapy.
So, encourage your loved ones to do things that alleviate the symptoms (playing music, making crafts, etc.) but please understand that this will not change the body's chemistry. Studies show that the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of antidepressants, exercise and therapy. Don't expect a great vacation or happy life event to snap your loved one "back to normal."
6. Be patient
You really have NO IDEA what your loved one is dealing with. So until things change and the depression is improved, all you can really do is love them and be patient.
Alyssa graduated with a degree in Middle East Studies & Arabic and continually adds to her list of random life experiences as she faces one adventure after another. With too many hobbies to count she especially loves hip-hop, soccer, and photography.