It can be hard to know how to help a partner or friend who is feeling depressed. The following suggestions might help with this:
1. Find out the kind of depression they are suffering from. Symptoms of clinical depression include sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, a desire to isolate themselves, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, suicidal tendencies and an inability to determine the cause of their depression.
Those with situational depression may have some of the same symptoms but they generally know why they feel the way they do. Also, once the specific issue is resolved, they are able to function normally again.
2. Be available to listen, or to just be there for them. Sometimes you don’t need to say a word. Don’t offer opinions; don’t give them advice; don’t be judgmental. Be kind and understanding; be gentle empathic, patient, accepting and compassionate.
3. Take them out of their environment as a change of scenery can help to change our mood. It doesn’t have to be somewhere that is wildly exciting. Just a walk by the river or a coffee at the mall is often enough to shift our mood for a while.
4. Don’t comment on their lifestyle (habits and patterns). Comments like “You ought to try and sleep more … or exercise … or change your diet …” are likely to hurt, and shut the person down. They show a lack of understanding, and send the message: “It’s your fault.”
5. Encourage them to seek out professional help. A friend or family member can be a real lifeline. We need a sense of belonging, and to know that others care. However, objective, insightful support from a professional counsellor can help them deal with the real issues in a more effective way.