When someone close to us is suffering from depression, it’s easy to feel distraught, frustrated, and confused – especially if we don’t know the full extent and effects of the illness. Oftentimes we wonder “What can I do to give help to someone who is depressed?” Sometimes, our uncertainty on how to approach people with depression can make us feel like we’re walking on eggshells, and it seems like everything we do may offend them. Depression may be hard to understand, but extending help to people affected by the illness is not. Here are 7 ways you can extend help to people suffering from depression.
Depression can make people feel empty, confused, and easily overwhelmed. Most people with this illness do not need tons of advice – a listening ear is enough. Joe – a returned missionary living far from family – said “Giving your time and attention to someone who is struggling can help a lot.” Elaine, a 25 year old accounting staff, said “Just making us feel that what we’re feeling and saying truly matter is enough for us.”
When reaching out to a depressed loved one or friend, always be willing to listen. Be patient, especially when they’re pouring their hearts out to you. Finding what to say can be difficult but as you listen with real intent to the person you’re helping, and if you listen to the promptings of the Spirit, it will help “tell you all things what ye should do.”
Judgment – it easily clouds our desire to help, and even our love to those we are helping. An important element in offering help to people with depression is to serve without judgment. Let’s leave the judgment to Heavenly Father and come to the doorsteps of the people we serve without any desire to judge. Jelly, a young mother who approached her best friend who was reluctant to admit he has depression, shares “When my friend opened up to me the main cause of his depression, I was taken aback. I did not expect his admission. In that moment, I had two choices – reprimand him for his actions, or just let him talk and share his feelings. I did the latter, and I felt it was the right choice.” Reach out with love without any hint of judgment – it will bring miracles as you serve.
Helping people with depression can simply mean being their friend, showing a willingness to listen without judging.
Be Present, Be a Friend
Reynald, a young man who has friends suffering from depression, says “one of the best things we can do is to let them know someone cares for them, someone has their back.” Being there doesn’t mean talking, giving advice, and trying to be bubbly in the hopes that your friend will feel the same. Being present means truly being there, to listen even if you don’t understand; to stay quiet even if you’re tempted to say things; and to recognize that most times, their life isn’t happy or hopeful. Simply be there. Let them know they will have a friend – one who may not understand them 100% – who will be with them when the going gets tough.
Understand Their Need to be Alone
Anjie, a young lady who has depression, says “What people don’t understand is when a person is depressed, all they want is to be alone. Sometimes, random visits – no matter how well-meaning – can cause me extreme stress.” When asked what she wants her future visitors to know, she said “Sending a message never fails. Informing us ahead of time of your plans to visit can help us prepare emotionally. Most of the time, we’re too tired to entertain people. However, if you’ve informed us ahead of time, it gives us the chance to prepare.” When visiting to a friend, send a text or a message on Facebook. Respect their decision to be alone and suggest another date if the need arises.
Recognize their Struggles
One young woman named Tri says “By simply recognizing that depression is real is enough help already. The first thing you can and should do is educate yourself about depression and have an open mind about it. Understand that the brain is just like any other organ in our body and that means that it too is very much prone to illnesses. People often disregard it as “nag-aarte” and belittle those who have it (or claim to have it). The last thing that people suffering from depression is someone telling them that they’re overreacting, that some people have it worse, or to have people compare it to what they went through.”
It’s easy to question the struggles of people with depression – especially when one doesn’t have a full grasp of its effects. Extend help to a depressed loved one or friend by making them know you honor their feelings and that their feelings are real. By letting them know that someone can see their struggles, and someone is willing to help them through the struggles is a big help.
Encourage Them to Seek All Available Help
One way to serve a person who’s going through depression is to encourage them to seek all the help they can find – spiritual, psychological and medical. Encourage them to talk to proper priesthood leaders, and refer support groups and doctors that can help with their illness. Healing is a long, and painful process. However, when adequate help is given, healing is very much possible.
Follow Christ’s example
Extending help to people with depression can also be overwhelming. When you’re unsure on what to do, turn to the One who knows the feelings of the people we’re serving. Jesus Christ suffered for your friend, for your loved one. He knows what are their needs and yearnings. When things are hard to understand, pray to the Father to help you know what Christ would do. In the toughest moments, asking help from the Father, and never ignoring promptings can help save a life. Let all you do be done with love, ask the Father for help, and always listen to promptings on what to do. It will be hard, but you will be guided.
Not of us will understand the bitter cup which is depression. However, all of us can help each other get through the challenging times by ministering, by serving. Make the hard, tough times more bearable – extend help to your loved one or friend suffering from depression even though you don’t always understand everything. .