If you suspect that a friend or family member is suffering from depression, it may seem awkward or difficult deciding what to do next. It could be that they are not aware that you know, or they themselves may not even be sure that they have depression. Would they want you to know, or would they feel if you helped that you were sticking your nose into their business? Depression can feel like a very awkward topic to bring up in conversation sometimes; what do you say? Here we offer you some advice as to how to help those close to you who may have depression, and also what not to do to make a difference.
Before embarking on offering to help, it is important that you read up about depression to get a good idea of what your friend or family member may be going through. This will leave you a little more informed when discussing depression, and give a good basis for understanding. It is also important, however, to not tell them that you understand what they are going through. This is always a tricky conversation starter, and unless you have had experience of depression yourself there is a good chance that you do not. Even if you have had experience, depression is unique to the person experiencing it, and the last thing you want to do is leave your friend or family member feeling patronised. The best thing you can do is offer them a space to discuss how they are feeling, and just make sure that they know you are there to help them.
It is very hard to advise on how to bring up the topic of depression with someone, and you yourself will have the best idea of how best to talk to your family member or friend. That said, it is very hard to go wrong with an atmosphere of love, openness and trust. Make sure that they know that you care and want to help, and give them to space to talk as much or as little, and as quickly as they want to. When talking do not be alarmed by anything they are saying. Often in depression the topic of suicide can come up often, but this is a good thing to discuss together. Talking over suicide, rather than acting as encouragement, will help your friend and family member to see different points of view and will hopefully act as a deterrent. Create a bond where they can contact you whenever they want to talk too.
A good way to help to work against depression is to keep your friend or family member active. At times depression can leave people wanting isolation, and they may well seem to hibernate. But try to avoid this. Take them to the cinema, or playing sport, or even for a quick walk, just to give them something else to think about and new sights to see. Seeing other friends or going out with the family will hopefully remind them of good things in their life that they can try to focus on.
Also keep in mind that once you offer your help you may have a long journey together to work through the depression. Sadly there is no miracle cure to depression, and treatment can take time to take effect. Make sure that you stick together through both the good and the bad times, and be aware that your relationship with your friend or family member may also hit rocky patches. They will be working through a lot, and there may well be times when they want to be alone or lash out. They may also push you away and work through things in isolation, a common side effect of depression. Just reaffirm to them that you will always be there for them, and give them the space that they need.
Finally, never blame yourself or your friend or family member for their depression. Depression is never anyone’s fault, and blame should never come into it. Anger or irritation at your friend or family member will not help them to take steps forwards, and may even be to their detriment. Any criticism given to them should be constructive.