Depression feels like the slow rotting of the soul. And maybe one of the worst things about it is how misunderstood you feel. Here are some things you can do to support somebody with depression.
1. Don’t say “You’re exaggerating”
Even if you don’t understand how someone can be sad for no reason, why they feel drained of energy and the will to live, this doesn’t mean depressed people are lying in order to get attention. In fact, attention is the last thing they want. They would hide into a hole underground if they could. So when you say to them that their behavior is not appropriate, all you do is increase the shame, the guilt and the sense of being a failure that they already feel.
2. Don’t tell them that their negativity is bringing everybody down
It’s true that being around a depressed person is not easy, since their world is painted in very dark colors. But imagine how they feel. If you criticize them for being negative, what you’re implying is that they chose this attitude as if choosing a meal from the menu. Well, who would choose such a debilitating disease? Again, if you say such things to them, they will feel like a burden to those around them and their guilt might crush them.
3. Validate their feelings
Don’t try to rationally explain to them that they have no reason to feel sad or overwhelmed or frustrated. They already know that. Instead, listen to their feelings, let them know you won’t judge them and that even though you can not even imagine what they are going through, you are there for them. That’s maybe the most important thing you can do: assure them that you still want to spend time with them, even though they are not fun to be around. And that’s important because one of their biggest fears is to become totally isolated.
4. Help them get professional help
In spite of the progress in this area, there’s still stigma around mental disorders. Try to persuade them there’s no shame in seeking professional help, that in doing so they will not prove themselves to be weak, but on the contrary. Put their minds at ease by emphasizing the privacy they will enjoy while talking to a therapist.
If you love somebody with depression, you’ll have to be more patient and more compassionate than you’ve ever been. Please, share this!