Finding the right words to say to somebody who's depressed can seem near impossible. Unfortunately, we're more likely to say the wrong thing when we're trying to help than we are to say something helpful.
We have to be careful when we're approaching somebody who is experiencing depression because it is easy to say something that could be detrimental to that person. A few examples of this are along the lines of 'What do you have to be sad about?' 'You've got everything you need.' 'Many people are much worse off'. The person experiencing depression has likely already said this to themselves. They're aware. Hearing it from an external source can add to the guilt and shame that often comes with depression. If you've ever said anything like this to somebody struggling, fear not, you're here now!
So without further ado, here are 3 things you can do to help your person when they're depressed.
Validation is key when supporting somebody struggling with depression. Validation means to give worth to the other person's feelings to help them feel valued. We often feel the need to share our own anecdotes or offer a solution when trying to help somebody, but before anything else, you must validate what the person is saying. Some phrases of validation could be:
- ‘This must be really difficult for you'
- 'That must be exhausting'
- 'I can't begin to imagine what you're going through'
- 'I'm listening and I hear you'
By using phrases like these, you're letting the person you're speaking with know that you're receiving what they are giving. We mustn't take for granted the courage it takes for somebody to speak up about their mental health issues and we want to make sure our person feels as seen and heard as possible.
This sounds easy, but just 'being there' can potentially make you feel hopeless. We have an urge to do more, but being there is one of the most effective things you can do. By being there you're helping that person feel less alone. The purpose of being there is to offer a source of consistency to someone who's in a place of instability.
- Check-in consistently with your loved one. They may not always get back to you but don't let this stop you from checking in regularly.
- Don't take it personally if they don't respond to your attempts to reach out. People who struggle with depression often feel like a burden and want to shield you from that.
- Your presence is a present. Try to fight the urge to do more. You being there is enough.
- Encourage them to get professional help (if they aren't doing this already). A good support network is so helpful to a person's recovery, but oftentimes professional help is paramount.
Again, this sounds simple but just paying attention to everything your person is saying is vital to form a safe space for communication with them. Without realising it, we often don't fully listen to other people on a day to day basis and this can be for a number of factors such as; thinking what we're going to say next, exploring the thoughts provoked by the other person's statements, thinking about other things related/non-related to the subject at hand.
It's important that we really listen to what's being said because, as I previously mentioned, the courage it takes for somebody to talk about their mental health issues is massive. It's also unfair for that person to have to repeat something that is potentially painful for them to talk about.
Top tips to be a top listener:
- Focus on your breathing while you're listening - this means your less likely to stumble down other thought paths taking you away from what's being said
- Keep eye contact
- Offer reassurance that you're listening by nodding or validating what's being said
- Don't get distracted by things in your room such as your phone
- If something doesn't quite make sense, don't be afraid to ask questions. This shows the person you're invested in the conversation and understanding.
To summarise, being your wonderful self is enough. You can always offer more but don't rack your brain searching for what this can be. When your person is ready they'll let you know what they need. Reading this post is you trying to learn and understand and that's what we should always be aiming to do.
Thank you so much for being here. Please feel free to follow me on Instagram (@_thebword__).
Lots of love,