Even if you don’t personally suffer from depression, you know how destructive it can be. Odds are you know someone that has gone through it or is suffering right this very moment. Depression is so incredibly common. Yet, so often, we don’t even realize that our closest friend or family member is suffering. However, there are red flags. People who are depressed usually become withdrawn and tend to isolate themselves. This is one of the easiest symptoms to recognize. When you do recognize this behavior in your loved one, don’t ignore it. Out of personal experience with depression, there are a number of things that I so deeply wanted people to say to me or do for me. So, if you genuinely care for someone who is going through a tough time, there are some do’s and don’ts when dealing with a struggling friend.
1. Do realize this is something they can't snap out of.
Depression is chemical. It’s a mind-set that seems to encapsulate the entire body. It’s a weight that they can’t get off their shoulders. Try not to add to that weight.
2. Don't ever tell them to "just get over it."
For all that is good and holy, do not say those words. Those words are very insensitive. In a depressed person's mind, you are saying, “Stop wasting my time with your feelings, move on already.”
3. Don’t ever discredit what they’re feeling.
As an outside person, you don’t get to decide if a person's pain is justified or not. The worst thing to do to depressed people is to make them feel ashamed for what they're feeling. There’s already a sense of intense self-pity involved in depression. When you belittle their suffering, you invalidate them. It’s important they feel that their pain is valid. That they have a right to hurt. To degrade someone in suffering is counterproductive and will ultimately make things worse.
4. Do make yourself known.
It is so important to let your loved ones know that you are there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on, even if they don’t ever take you up on your offer. Make sure you let them know how much you love them. When people are depressed, they feel hatred toward themselves, and it’s easy for them to fall into dangerous thoughts that everyone dislikes them. Let them know how you really care about them. Don't let that voice in their head overpower your love for them.
4. Do give them space to heal.
It’s common that a person who is depressed will isolate himself. Depression forces people to put themselves in a box and shut out the world. This is a defense mechanism. It’s important that you allow them to heal. It just takes time.
5. Do get them out of the house from time to time.
Related to no. 4, give them space to heal. However, don’t leave them alone for too long. Someone who is depressed has a tendency to not get out of bed. There is no energy or motivation to get up, take a shower or get anything done. Those suffering from depression will naturally shut you out. But even after giving them space, you must make yourself known and ask them to a movie. If they don’t feel up to going out, pick up some take out and spend some time with them. It’s important to distract them from their funk, even if it’s just for awhile. This is how you can really help your loved ones pull away from their pain. It’s one of the sweetest things you can do for you loved ones.
It is important to encourage your broken loved ones. Fill them with love and your presence. Pray for them. Pray with them, even if they are skeptical. (I know the bitterness of a depressed mind.) Even with all your effort, sometimes things are beyond your control. There’s only so much that can be done. However, your love and encouragement will always be remembered. In the same way, your absence will also be remembered. So, you have to make a choice whether or not to take on a little bit of your loved one’s burden. Just know, that’s all that person wants: to have the burden lifted, even for just a moment.