Depression support 101

It can be challenging to know how to handle depression in the people you love. What can you say to support someone, what are the wrong things to say? It gets really tricky if you don’t have depression yourself. So, we put together some basic information together on depression support for loved ones. There are various types of depressive disorders, from a minor, short-termed depression to an overwhelming, non-functioning illness. Studies tell us that approximately one in four persons will have a depressive episode during their lifetime. Yet there is still stigma attached to having a mental illness which causes even more difficulties for the depressed person. For example, if I’m depressed, do I tell others what is going on with me? Do I need to let them know I see a therapist and am on medication? How do I tell someone I’m suicidal?

What Is Depression Like

Imagine yourself at a time when you were extremely physically sick. As you think about horrible this illness was, remember your thoughts and feelings. Now think about what you would feel like if you had an overwhelming depression that continually set you back on a daily basis for weeks, maybe months, or longer. Because we often don’t really understand how terrible this disease is, it’s hard to imagine, but our goal is to be there for friends, family, and others who deal with depression on a daily basis. So this list of statements can help you to be a depression support. Coping with a loved one’s depression is challenging.

Things To Say For Depression Support

  • “Would you like some company?” This allows the depressed person to make the decision about being with you. At times, he/she/they may want company while at other times the person may want to be alone. Do not be offended if he/she/they want to be alone.
  • “I’m so sorry you feel so bad.” This basic statement acknowledges the person’s pain which will usually be well-received.
  • “Would you like to talk about it?” This also allows the person to make the decision about whether or not he wants to talk and it also says that you are willing to listen to him.
  • “Can you tell me about what depression feels like?” By stating this, you acknowledge that you want to learn about what she is going through.
  • “What can I do to help?” Open offers of help are beneficial and appreciated as sometimes, it is very difficult for the person may struggle to get out of the house or even in having the energy to do basic chores and errands.
  • “You can cry on my shoulder if you need.” The depressed person needs to know that you can deal with the intensity of their thoughts and feelings and are willing to be there for them. If you can’t do this for them, do not offer it.
  • “Can I help you with ……….… (kids, chores, bringing meals, taking you to appointments, picking up your medication)?” Similar to the above, this statement is for those individuals who know a lot about the depressed person and that person’s specific needs such as picking up the kids after school or having meals prepared.
  • “Please tell me if I say something that offends you.” (For tips on what NOT to say, read this article). We all try to be a support, but sometimes, we say inappropriate things. Here we acknowledge our struggles in understanding what to say and the person who is depressed is honored that you care enough to know that you may say the wrong thing.
  • “I’m here for you” or “I’m not going away.” Acknowledging your ongoing support is especially valuable when someone is severely depressed and fearful that others may leave her because she’s no fun/unhappy/sad/grieving, etc.
  • “You’re very important to me.” Reminders of how important the person is also valuable as the depressed person needs reminders that they are important to others no matter what his/her/their mental status is.

The very fact that you are reading this article tells us that you are a caring person who wants to be a support to someone who struggles with depression. Being emotionally, physically, and spiritually present to another allows us to be compassionate and valuable to others. Please recognize that being a support also allows you to grow and heal in your own path of life.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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