Sometimes, we desperately want to help our friend who’s struggling with depression, but we have no idea how. A “Get Well Soon” card might feel trite, and we might be scared of awkward silences or tears.
Depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and includes illness such as Seasonal Affective Disorder - when someone suffers depression related to the seasons, usually in the winter but people can also suffer in the summer; Prenatal Depression and Postnatal Depression which can affect both a Mum and Dad as they begin to get used to less sleep and the huge adjustment to family life!
It can affect anyone and is sometimes hard to understand, but author Sally Brampton describes it like this: “Severe depression, put simply, is an overwhelming and unmanageable onslaught of every normal, human fear and difficult emotion. It is a loss of and lack of perspective and proportion.”
So how can you help someone lost in the darkness of depression?
- Allow them to take things at their own pace. It might be that they’re able to carry on as usual, but they also might find crowds or loud noise overwhelming, so allow them to let you know where their safe places are and don’t pressure them to “push themselves” or “pull themselves together” - if they could, they would!
- Listen to them. It might sound simple, but allow them to talk about what they need to without too many questions or interruptions. Listening not only allows your friend to make sense of their own thinking but will help you to better understand what they’re going through.
- Be practical. Ask them if there are things that you could do that would be helpful; if you swoop in and begin doing things for them you might end up doing the one thing they enjoy so give them some options on what you’re able to offer and let them choose what would be most helpful. It could be help around the house, cooking, childcare or errand running - nothing is too small to be helpful!
- Send flowers or a card; you’d do it if they had the flu so don’t hold back just because it’s a mental illness that is causing their suffering.
- Above all, a friend with depression, is still a friend. You might need to adapt some of your regular activities - but you can still enjoy time together - don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about your life too!