How to help someone with depression

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"If you want to know how to help someone with depression, start by keeping in contact with them." | Photo Credit:  ©besjunior / Adobe Stock

Practical tips on how to help someone with depression

How to help someone with depression? This question about helping someone with depression is very close to my heart because I am that person. 

The one with social anxiety disorder and depression. The one who developed agoraphobia as a result. The one behind closed doors who can’t leave the house or get up to do anything. 

I am slowly getting myself out of the hole I have been hiding in for the last eight months or so, and I am here to help YOU to help your loved ones because some people cannot do it on their own. Yes, sometimes people do need help from others. 

My advice on how to help someone with depression comes from the harsh reality of being a depressed person that needed help.

Do not think it is okay to try the “tough love” card with someone with depression. Believe me when I tell you that you are only making things worse for them. This is not a useful way to help someone with depression. Tough love does not work on someone with anxiety disorders and/or depression. 

Someone in that situation needs love, respect, and a lot of help. By ignoring the situation and hoping it goes away, you are telling them that you don’t care. And when someone with depression thinks that you don’t care, they are less likely to try to recover.

"My advice on how to help someone with depression comes from the harsh reality of being a depressed person that needed help."

How to help someone with depression if you live far from your loved one or friend with depression:

One thing that I have noticed is that when you are having a really bad and dark episode of depression, your friends and family who live far away tend to back off and not pay any attention to you, and don’t bother to check up on you or to talk to you. Friends who disappear when you are ill are an unfortunate reality when you have depression. I am guessing that this is because they think that it might go away if they ignore my depression.

This is a very selfish thing to do if you really care about someone. This is not how to help someone with depression. This is a time when they need you the most. Obviously, there will be times when they don’t want to respond or talk to anyone but even knowing that you are always there for them makes them realize that when they are ready to talk to someone, you are there for them to turn to.

To help someone with depression, keep in contact with them. If you don’t know what to say to them to make them feel better, then just talk to them about how your day or week went. Tell them something funny that happened to you in the hopes that it will make them smile or laugh. Talk about your new puppy and how cute and cuddly he is. Tell them about the lovely flowers you are growing in your garden and how gorgeous they smell (appeal to their senses, it lets them know that there are wonderful things in the world that they could possibly be missing out on.

Read more: Depression is like drowning

Send them a card on their birthday and Christmas (if they celebrate it). People with depression often feel loneliness even more at these times of the year. This makes them feel loved and special. If they are struggling financially, send them a grocery store gift card so they can buy bread, milk, and chocolates. (It also gives them a reason to get out of the house, and if they don’t want to do that, they can order online, simple!  Or, if your friend is into social activism, send them some diversity and inclusion gifts.

Like and comment on their social media. This might not seem important to you, but it can be to them. It shows your presence in their life, and that is what they need. It means that you are showing support and that you care about them regardless of their depression.

Send them an email or text every now and then rather than bombarding them with phone calls they will never answer. Obviously, if they prefer a phone call, that is also okay! 

All of these are simple and easy ways to help someone with depression if you don't live nearby.

"Tough love is not a useful way to help someone with depression"

How to help someone with depression if you live close to your loved one or friend with depression:

This is very important, and I honestly hope that I can get at least one person to understand how important these tips are for people wanting to know to help someone with depression. 

Please do not try to force them to go out to pubs and bars to try and drink away their sorrows. If they want to then let them, but do not force it because when they feel worse in the morning you are to blame, not them. Helping someone with depression doesn't have to be about trying to make them happy or forcing them to socialize.

If you are going to try to get a person with depression to go out, it is best to get them to do something that will help their anxiety, not hurt it. Going for a long walk in the park in the open, getting fresh air, sitting next to the lake feeding the ducks. That kind of thing to start off with is helpful.  

Please do not constantly invite a depressed person over to your house because you feel that it is good to get them out of the house. The problem I have with this is that it is difficult for them to walk or drive over to your house in the first place. Then they go over there, spend an hour or two with you, and go home to feel the same again. From my own personal experience, this does not help someone with depression.

People with depression are most likely not eating well or eating at all. How can you help? Take them a nice hearty, healthy home-cooked meal (not take away - unless it is healthy), enough for them to have for the next day too. They will honestly be very grateful for this! And this is not something you have to do every day. But if you really care for this person with depression, then once a week should not be a problem for you.

Send them a text and ask them if there is anything that you can do for them that day. Maybe an errand you can help them with or maybe take them to any appointments they might have, take them to the store if they need to go shopping. If you don’t have a car, then offer to go with them for moral support.

People with depression often go days without having a shower or bath, and it is not because they are lazy; they are simply too exhausted to get into the shower or bath. If you want to know how to help someone with depression, a good idea is to go over to their place and run them a nice bubble bath. Sit there with them and talk or just be there. Help them wash their hair if need be. When they are done and in their bedroom getting dressed, give the bath a quick wash and tidy the bathroom for them.

If they are struggling financially, then bring them a few necessities such as bread, milk, tea, cheese, veggies, and toilet paper. I can’t tell you how many times I have run out of toilet paper when I had no money or didn't have spoons energy.

Another way to help someone with depression is to assist them with household chores such as washing dishes or doing a load of laundry, washing their bedding, vacuuming, and so on. People with depression often neglect cleaning their homes because they cannot face it, are too exhausted to do anything, or don’t see the point in doing it. If their home is nice and clean, it does make them feel a little better, at least at the moment, and it also motivates them to try to do it themselves. As I have mentioned, people with depression are constantly exhausted and sometimes need help with these things.

Often people with depression neglect their own grooming or taking care of themselves. If you are good with cutting hair, why not give them a haircut? Even just a trim or a style could help them to feel good. Help them to trim their nails or even give them a manicure or pedicure.

If they like to read, then bring them a good book to read.

Ask them to join you for a walk once a week. They can choose not to do so, but at least you are trying.

Honestly, if you can do any of these things even once a month, it would help someone with depression more than you know. 

Don’t just get angry or upset when someone with depression doesn’t want you to do something that you want them to do; rather, do something for them that you know would help them rather than be selfish. And if your loved one or friend with depression also has a social anxiety disorder, please do not constantly bombard them with phone calls; send them a text, and they will text back when they feel comfortable enough to do so.

Patience is key here. Please, please be patient with someone with depression. I had a friend who, even after telling her to please stop calling me all the time because of my social anxiety and to sometimes send me a text, refused to do so and told me that I am being selfish. Someone like that is very toxic, and that is not going to help someone it is going to hurt them.

Article by

Gemini, the author of "How to help someone with depression," describes themselves as "just an ordinary girl in the world," who grew up with social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Their articles have been republished from the blog: Social Anxiety And Me.