When a family member or friend is struggling with depression, you may have no idea what to do – or what to even say. The wrong words can do more harm than good, so try these 10 safe and sincere statements as you help a friend or loved one who struggles with depression.
1. You are loved.
Those with depression often fight feelings of low self-worth. Remind your family member or friend that you and others love him or her unconditionally. As you say this, explain to them that having depression does not change that fact.
2. You’re not alone.
The phrase “I am alone” continually crosses the mind of a person with depression. Tell him or her that there are other people with depression too. This will hopefully help give him support to know that even though he may feel alone, many other people struggle with this issue of depression too. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that nearly 7 percent of adults experienced major depression in 2015.
3. It’s okay to feel this way.
As you help your loved one get out of depression, you may hear him or her say, “I wish I didn’t feel this way.” This natural response often leads to resentment, shame, or feigned happiness. Encourage acceptance of negative emotions, as resistance can make them stronger. Encourage him or her to practice meditation, yoga, and self-compassion exercises together to learn awareness of, acceptance, and appropriate responses to unwanted feelings.
4. It’s okay to seek help.
Because of the stigma of mental illness, many people are too ashamed to seek professional (or even friendly) help. Some don’t know where to turn for help, and others like to solve problems on their own. No matter the reason for hesitance, reassure your loved one that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness or a cause for embarrassment, but rather a form of self-care.
5. Help me understand.
Avoid relating your own times of hardship in life to the current time he or she is experiencing now. Every person is different and relating your experience to hers may not help the situation. Even if you have severe depression too, your loved one may be feeling differently. Ask for help in understanding exactly what your loved one is going through.
6. What do you need today?
Saying “Call me if you need anything” is well intended, but ineffective. Someone with depression finds asking for help to be difficult, especially in the very beginning. If you don’t know a specific way to help someone with depression, reach out to them by asking “What do you need today?” and offer assistance in areas such as:
- A hug or listening ear
- Helping with chores or errands
- Time away from the kids
- An exercise partner
Sometimes those with depression can’t pinpoint their needs, so look for relevant ways to help.
7. You’re important to me.
Show your loved one that he or she is important to you by responding to her calls for assistance and spending quality time together. Saying or showing your friend or family member they are important to you will resonate with them. That phrase or action could be what is getting them through the day.
8. I’m not going to abandon you.
On top of shame, your loved one may fear loss of relationships due to struggling with depression. He or she may think you’ll someday feel overburdened and leave. Say often that you’re in this for the long haul and that you will not abandon them in this time of need. Your friend needs you now more than ever, and it is up to you to reciprocate that.
9. You’re still you.
Your loved one may feel lost in the depression and wonder to themselves, “What’s wrong with me?” For anyone experiencing depression, help her or him understand they are not defined by their emotions. Explain that feeling horrible does not make her or him a horrible person. Point out their unique characteristics, strong suits, and abilities often to help build them up.
10. There is hope.
Depression breeds hopelessness, which can lead to tragedy. Although the depression may last a very long time, there’s still hope for effective treatment and a fulfilling life. Inform your loved ones of ways to receive help and help them beat depression. There is hope for everyone struggling with depression, you and your loved one just have to know where to look.
Your loved one can find such hope through our professional, compassionate programs at Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling Services. Encourage your friend or family member to contact our office to schedule an appointment today.