How To Help Someone With Depression

It’s hard when a friend or loved one is struggling with their mental health, they won’t be their normal self. They may be mean, short tempered or just lacking the spark that makes them who they are. G has never found it easy to live with me when I am depressed and as I have written before he finds it hard not to take my behaviour personally, but it’s never about him, it’s all about me. And while he wants to make me better there isn’t always much he can do.

A man walking across stepping stones crossing a shallow river in Derbyshire

I have been a bit quiet of late. It happens when life around here gets too hectic, or in the current case when I have no energy to write. I haven’t been in a good place for the last few weeks and that usually comes with a loss of interest in writing. There are still things I am working through, but my fingers have found the keyboard again and my mind is better able to form words. 

My depression hasn’t been that bad in a while, I haven’t felt so absent for such a long period of time, but today I am feeling a little better able to breathe. And to write.

How can people help when I am depressed? For me I need patience, love and for people not to give up on me. I might push G away when he goes to hug me, but I don’t want him to stop trying. I appreciate the attempt even if I can’t appreciate the hug at that moment. It takes a strong person to keep trying. If I reject his hugs 99 times I still want him to try again, but that goes against human instincts. Whatever comes out of my mouth I am not saying “no, not ever” I am saying “no, not now”. At times I may want the human contact, but if it comes as a surprise I will still reject it. 

A rocky beach with a family silhouetted near the sea

So How Do You Help Someone With Mental Health Issues?

Everyone is different. Even if they have the same mental health problem as someone else they will be experiencing different emotions and it's hard to know what it feels like to be depressed. Some people want to be left alone, while others need to be around people. Whatever they are experiencing they wont be able to accept help until they are ready.

Here are some thoughts from others based on their personal experiences of having a mental health issue or knowing someone close to them who has.

Siobhan shared: "I feel like when it comes to letting people know I'm struggling or coming clean about my past with an eating disorder my friends have been a lot more supportive than my family. When I first started telling people I was bulimic I was in my 20s and I had such a negative reaction (my cousin actually accused me of "excluding" her because it was something she didn't understand) that when I found myself struggling again recently, I was reluctant to face up to it or share my journey. But I took courage from the many women who had been open about their mental health and posted about it on Instagram... with mixed results. My brother was lovely and empathic. My mum was firstly notable by her absence - I could see she had seen my stories and posts but hadn't got in touch - and then just did not know how to speak to me about it. I heard "I was worried, but you look fine on your stories so I figured you were ok" "oh, you're always the victim aren't you?" And I also felt pushed into a corner almost by the fact I was being face timed while being interrogated on it.

So I'd say to family members just a little message can make all the difference, let them know you're there. Help out with their load if you can, without playing on feelings of guilt. Don't try and force conversation about it - they actually may not want to talk about it with you! Be kind, above everything be kind."

Hannah from Budding Smiles advised: "Let them know that you’re there. Even if they don’t want to talk at that exact moment, the reassurance that someone is there when you’re ready means a lot. Also just the odd kind gesture - the offer of a meal or to babysit, asking if they’d like someone to go along to any appointments for moral support."

Emma shared that her and her partner "both suffered with depression and anxiety when Oscar came along (mainly triggered by a traumatic birth). Communication was absolutely key, and being able to be raw and vulnerable with each other."

Susanne from Ghostwriter Mummy suggests: "Just listen, without judgement and without interruption. Be the one who provides a safe place to talk and let them know that their feelings are valid."

Alyssa offers great advice for friends who are experiencing mental health issues:  "Just keep offering to meet up for a coffee. One day they might say "yes" and open up to you."

Lucy has written about mental health on her blog Mrs H's Favourite Things many times. She says it's hard because everyone wants different things, but "Letting them know you are there for them is hugely important. I think you need to provide a listening ear, but in my opinion as much as possible you need to refrain from offering advice. There is a tendency to want to fix people with mental ill health but you can’t just fix them. Empathy is what is needed."

And finally Kate from Lesbemums says: "It's ok if you don't understand. There is nothing worse than someone saying "oh yeah, I have OCD" when you know they don't. Ask questions, understand and empathise at least. Be there for that person."

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