Depression as we know, is a very common mental Illness. According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 7 Australians will experience depression in their lifetime, and 1 in 16 Australians are currently suffering from it. When trying to check on and help a person fighting depression, it’s really important you do so in the right manner to avoid making things worse. Here are my top 7 tips to keep in mind when checking on a person with depression.
- Depression is not the same as feeling sad
One of the fastest ways to make a person suffering from depression feel worse is to tell them “you don’t even have anything to be sad about”. For most people living with long term depression, it isn’t a logical thought process but an emotional one. They may not be upset about anything in particular, yet they still feel down. Furthermore it might even be counterintuitive.
People can feel like no one really cares about them despite spending the day with people who clearly do. So it’s important that even if the reasons or lack thereof for a person to be feeling depressed don’t make sense to you, never tell them to get over it or shrug it off.
2. Just be there
One of the most difficult things to balance is making yourself available for conversation and inviting the person suffering from depression to talk to you, without forcing a conversation or being overwhelming for them. For someone suffering from depression it can be really difficult to talk about, as it exposes them more to their own emotions by having to talk about it. This is why constantly bringing up the state of their emotions and trying to force a conversation about it can do more harm than good. Be a listening ear and hear more than the words.
3. Be sure to check in on them regularly. Things can change very quickly
Depression and depressing emotions are unpredictable. Bad thoughts and feelings can come about almost instantly and irrationally, which is why it’s really important to check in regularly. If a person tells you they are feeling better and ok, you should maintain your supportive behaviours, so that there is no sliding back
4. Make sure not to be judgmental
Sometimes the problems that depressed people have may seem trivial or ridiculous to you, although they are very real for them. In a similar way that people with eating disorders may feel like they are overweight despite them being the opposite, people with depression can feel lonely or unloved despite that being far from reality. If a person with depression opens up to you about their problems you will only make them feel worse if you are being judgmental about their issues.
5. It is not your problem to solve
Trying to fix a problem when someone mentions one is an easy reaction to have for a lot of people. If something is upsetting a person and making them feel sad, your first reaction might be to help them fix it. The reason this can do more harm than good is because for the depressed person their problems are too difficult for them to solve due to their mental state, and if they could overcome their issues they would. By then suggesting easy fixes to their problems, it trivialises the issues that they’re unable to deal with making them feel worse. Instead when they come to you with their problems, listen carefully to them and ask what you can do to support them in the short term while helping to suggest ways to try to help them in the future.
6. Look for simple things to make their day easier
Depending on your relationship to the person suffering from depression this will vary, but try to look for little things you can do to brighten their day. This can range from taking out the trash, getting them a small gift, sending them a positive message or helping them out with some kind of work they need to do. The goal of this is to do something that clearly lets them know that they’re important to you, and to lighten the load for them.
7. Let them know they’re not alone and that you’re there for them
Often people with depression constantly battle feelings of loneliness and isolation on a day to day basis, which is why regularly letting someone know that you’re there for them is a very valuable thing that you can do for them. If you haven’t had much contact from the person with depression for a couple of days, just letting them know you’re there can be a big deal for them if they’ve been having bad thoughts.
Depression is often a longstanding, and long-term issue that won’t be resolved overnight. Reading about depression yourself is very beneficial to try to understand it more. When checking on people with depression it’s easy to feel like you aren’t making any difference, but with sustained support you can provide a lot of help to the person coping with depression.
At Armchair Psychology we specialise in counselling for depression. Our Clinical Director, Amanda Gordon, has an innate ability to translate psychological wisdom into practical life skills. Highly relatable, Amanda is experienced in helping people deal with the full range of life crises, including managing relationships, coping with grief and loss, dealing with stress and managing change. She works with individuals, couples and families, helping them enrich their lifestyle and their effectiveness in the world.
To get in touch, give our practice a call on (02) 9362 3490 or book an appointment online