Clinical depression, a mood disorder, can be difficult to live with. But a strong support system can make things easier. If your friend or family member is suffering from clinical depression, your being there for them can mean the world. While you are not a therapist (which means you are not equipped to help your friend professionally), you can certainly help them out in small but meaningful ways.
Wondering how? Check this list out.
The first (and most important) thing you can do for a friend suffering from depression is to learn about their condition. This way, you can offer them a safe space and identify their symptoms and triggers. You would also find it easier to be more empathetic and understand what they might need during their low points.
When it comes to mental illness, you must be extremely patient and sensitive. This does not mean you need to walk on eggshells around your friends. However, do not treat them differently as well. If you sense something's been bothering them, make them comfortable and ask how they have been feeling lately. Ask questions (but don't probe too much about things they don't want to open up about) and validate how they feel. Provide a safe space for them to express themselves without offering unsolicited advice.
Finally, avoid statements like “just get over it” or "everyone goes through that", as toxic positivity is not helpful and can make your friend feel as if you are trivialising their condition.
Be trustworthy and non-judgemental
Here are a few pointers you should remind yourself from time to time:
- Since it is not your lived experience, you should not disclose any information about your friend’s diagnosis, treatment, etc. to anyone without their permission.
- The nature or intensity of their symptoms is not something you can define or question. Do not compare or belittle anyone’s problems or sufferings. Sometimes, it might feel instinctive to say things like “oh, but XYZ has it so much worse” but make sure to avoid making such statements before your friend.
- You might not always have something to say or comment, which is okay! In such cases, tell your friend that while you don’t know what to say, you are there for them to listen without judgement and listen attentively to whatever they want to share.
Help them with everyday tasks
Clinical depression can be debilitating for many people, making it difficult for them to find the motivation to keep up with everyday tasks, which include taking care of themselves.
You can help your friend with little tasks like folding their laundry, accompanying them to the grocery store, or running some errands for them, especially those they are not looking forward to. Remind them that it is okay to do fewer things in a day (even if that means brushing their teeth and having a meal). Their worth is not tied to their productivity, and you love and value them just as much even when they are not feeling their best.
As and when they complete something they are struggling with (these could include small tasks like studying for an hour or making the bed), appreciate their efforts and tell them you’re proud of them! These words of encouragement also act as a positive reinforcement.
Stay in touch and offer to do shared activities
If you see your friend withdrawing, check in on them. In case you cannot find the time to see them often, a small text or phone call to check in on them can do the trick. While these gestures might seem trivial, these will remind them that someone is always there for them!
Suggest shared activities like going for a walk or shopping together. This will prevent them from self-isolating. While they might turn down invitations or avoid certain activities, don’t feel bad about it and don’t make them feel bad about it either. Continue to invite them regardless, reassuring them that you’ll be there for them whenever they feel ready. Try not to pressurise them. Just remind them that you’re always happy to have them around.
Establish boundaries and take care of yourself
You must also acknowledge that being on the other side can be difficult. Offering constant help can be intense and can affect your mood. Therefore, establishing boundaries is important. Continue doing the things that please you and find the time to relax. Find your support system and space to vent out your emotions. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup!
Mental health professionals recognise the side effects of caregiving on people's minds and bodies. So, if things feel too overwhelming, you can always seek help. However, make sure not to see the same therapist as your friend, as that might complicate things.
Wondering where to find the right therapist for you? That's where Rocket Health comes in! Our team of experts are there to address all your mental health concerns. Click the button below to get started.