Latest statistics indicate two-thirds of adults will experience mental health problems[i]. So it’s increasingly likely we will know someone who has depression at some point in our lives. But how do you support somebody with depression?
One of the most important things you can do is listen. You don’t need to be able to offer a fix, just take time to hear what the person is saying. Problem solving, offering solutions and making assumptions can all stop a person feeling they have been listened to.
2) Don’t be critical
Everyone experiences and copes with depression differently so judgements about how someone is dealing with depression are unhelpful. And while it may be tempting to make comparisons with your own experience, or that of others, this can trivialise how the person is feeling. Instead, try to be supportive and accept them as they are.
3) Avoid clichés
‘Pull your socks up’. ‘Snap out of it.’ ‘It can’t be that bad.’ Clichés such as these can leave a person feeling unable to be open and honest about how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking. And they can suggest depression is the result of a weakness or character flaw. It’s important to recognise that each person’s experience of depression will be individual to them.
4) Learn about depression
Without having experienced it, it can be difficult to understand what depression is and how it makes you feel. So take some time to familiarise yourself with the symptoms, the different types of depression, and the different treatments available.
5) Be there
Let the person know you’re there when they need you, whether it’s providing a shoulder to cry on or watching a film together. Depression can make people withdraw and stop interacting with others, right when they need support. So check in with them regularly and don’t stop reaching out.
6) Be patient
Hang in there. You may offer support but find it’s dismissed, or find the person becomes snappy, angry or stops engaging with you. Try not to take negative reactions such as these personally. Remember the person you know and love is still there, they’re just unwell.
7) Seek support
If you’re concerned someone you know is experiencing depression, encourage them to seek support. This may be from their GP, a counsellor, a local support group, an online forum, a work colleague, or from friends or family members.
If you become worried the person is considering suicide, you may need to seek urgent support on their behalf. This can be done by calling their GP/Out Of Hours team to request an emergency appointment. Alternatively, you can call the emergency services on 999 or take them to the nearest A&E department. You can also contact Samaritans, who are available 24 hours a day.
8) Look after yourself
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Supporting someone with depression can sometimes feel overwhelming and exhausting. Make sure you use your own support network to talk through how you’re feeling and any concerns you have. And take time out to do things you enjoy. Remember it’s OK to have fun. Without looking after yourself, it will be increasingly difficult to support someone else.
[i] Mental Health Foundation, Surviving or Thriving? The state of the UK’s mental health, Available: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health