Depression is a prevalent, valid mental health issue that touches all our lives in one way or another. If you aren’t struggling with depression yourself, someone close to you probably is.
Watching someone you love and care about go through depression is an awful thing. In my own experience, it makes me feel helpless and useless.
My kind and caring friends have often come alongside me during my own struggles with depression and asked me, “how can I help?”
And to be perfectly honest, I never had very good answers for them in the moment. For some reason, the more I needed practical help, the harder it was for me to identify how to ask for it. I’m finding that this is actually a common problem for those who struggle with depression. Sometimes we know we need help, but we don’t have the energy to verbalize it.
So, I decided to do some research. What practical things do people with depression need the most? How can you actually help loved ones with depression?
I have been talking to some of my friends and followers on social media to see what thoughts they had about it. After those conversations and pondering what has helped me the most in my own struggles, I decided I wanted to create a resource for people that want to help their friends, but don’t know where to start.
Some of these ideas may be helpful, others might not. Everyone’s struggles and needs are different. These are simply the overlapping themes from my conversations, research, and personal experience.
1. Listen to them.
This is so important, but it can really be hard. Especially if all you want to do is fix your friend’s pain. Listening may seem too passive to do any good. Trust me, it’s not. Having friends I trust that are willing to listen to me has been one of the most influential things in my healing journey towards mental health stability. Listening is an active, practical way that you can help your friends and it likely helps way more than you’ll ever know.
2. Speak truth gently.
Truth can be extremely hard to see through the darkness of depression. For me, it often felt impossible. I needed the truth, but I didn’t even want to hear it. That’s why I chose to add the word “gently” to this one. Yes, we need to consistently be reminded of truth about our lives, ourselves, and our faith, but please do it gently.
3. Check on them.
Knowing that someone is looking out for you is so comforting. Be consistent is checking on your friends with depression. Even if they don’t have the energy to reply to your text or say so, it matters to them.
4. Be present.
The simple act of being present can mean everything to your friend with depression. This can look different than just physical presence too. Whether through texts, a phone call, or actually being with someone in person, being present can ease the feelings of loneliness and emptiness that people with depression often deal with.
5. Bring them food.
Meeting practical needs is an important part of walking with someone through depression. Because of loss of appetite and loss of energy, many people with depression struggle to get the nutrition they need. Simple needs like nutrition are so vital, and you can help provide that.
6. Go somewhere with them.
This obviously isn’t always an option (thanks, Rona), but when it is an option again, remember it. Just going for a drive, going to the store, going anywhere really can be a great way to pass the time. Distraction isn’t always a recommended approach to depression, but it can be super helpful occasionally. So, turn up the music and go for a drive.
7. Say “I’m proud of you.”
Living with depression is hard. It’s a fight that leaves even the strongest people battered and bruised. Every day is a battle. So, let your friend know that you’re proud of them for all they do. If they’ve been vulnerable with you in sharing their pain, please tell them you’re proud of them and you think they’re doing a good job going through some tough stuff.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a list of things to do so you can fix your friend or their depression. None of this is about fixing anything or anyone.
This is about finding practical ways to walk alongside someone and love them unconditionally through their dark days until they can see the sun again.
- What would you add to this list?
- If you are supporting a friend with depression, are there other struggles you have besides not knowing how to help?