Depression can manifest itself in a number of ways: prolonged and pervasive sadness; feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing; changes in appetite; sleep issues; irritability or lack of energy. All of these issues can take a toll on a person and make everyday life hard to manage.
“I often compare depression to the monster-under-the-bed mentality. You never know when it will creep out of its lair, ready to attack and make your life even more difficult and trying,” Karla Culbertson, who has depression, told HuffPost. “Even though it can be extremely difficult to deal with, I find that it’s comforting to have family members and other loved ones who can support you through the darkest nooks of your life.”
One in six people will experience this mental health condition at some point in their life, which means that you or someone close to you is likely to be affected by depression. Below, people who’ve dealt with depression explain how friends and family can help ease the burden.
1. Listen without trying to “fix” anything.
“I’ve found that simply being present for someone while they’re in a down spell can sometimes be the only thing that helps. In those times, try to avoid offering solutions. The solution is to not be depressed, and it can make a depressed person feel like more of a failure because they can’t get back to being happy when it sounds so simple to everyone else. Being empathetic might be the best you can do, and it’s no small favor to the depressed person ― they will remember it and appreciate it.” ― Christie Matherne
2. Help us with the household chores we haven’t been able to tackle.
“Go over and do their laundry so they can stop turning their underwear inside out. Or wash the shame-pyramid of dishes in their sink. When you’re in the shit, talking about how you’re feeling can be helpful, of course it can, but it can also feel like you’re being tasked to explain, while on fire, how exactly it feels to be on fire.” ― @AlecWithPen
3. Offer to help in specific ways instead of just asking generally if there’s anything you can do.
“Don’t say, ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ It’s such a nice thing to say, but I 100 percent hate it. It puts the ball entirely in the depressed person’s court ― and they’ll just say, ‘No I’m fine’ because they don’t have the willpower to express their needs or make choices.” ― @AlecWithPen
4. Be extra patient with us when we’re going through a rough patch.
“It’s important for a partner to know that I’m trying my best. I may need some space to recharge, I may get frustrated easily, I may need more reassurance that you love me. If I share my struggles with you on an intimate level, it means I trust and love you. A partner also needs to know that I’m working to be the best possible version of myself, but it takes time, effort and practice.” ― Maria Fraschilla
5. Send a quick text or funny DM to let us know you’re thinking of us.
“I love receiving little texts or silly memes from friends. Sometimes I don’t answer because I really don’t feel like it (and I hate myself for that) but I still love receiving these messages. It sometimes saves my day when I’m in the dark and I really wish they could understand that.” ― Sow Ay
6. And try not to take it personally if we don’t respond when you reach out.
“People with depression convince ourselves we have nothing of value to add to the world, we shut ourselves off from those who might really want to be in our lives. To them, however, this intense self-loathing looks more like we’re just being arrogant jerks. So, to everyone I never called back or otherwise shut down on, please know it really was me and not you. If you’d just give me another shot while understanding how depression fits into all this, that could be the lifeline I need to pull me out of this pit I’ve dug myself into.” ― Craig Tomashoff
7. Remind us how strong and capable we are when we’re feeling worthless.
“I need you to remind me of all of the things I have overcome and have accomplished. I need you to remind me that there are people in the world who benefit from my positive work ethic and impact.” ― Culbertson
8. Tell us it’s OK to not be OK sometimes.
“Having depression makes me feel guilty all the time: for not going out, for not working enough, for not eating healthy enough, for everything. Being reminded that it’s OK to feel like that, that it’s not my fault because depression is an illness, is also a huge help. And I need to be reminded of that a lot because depression keeps telling me I’m not good enough to do anything.” ― Ay
9. Hold our hand or give us a hug when we don’t feel like talking.
“When I’m at my lowest, my partner will sit next to me, hold me or my hand and I’m incredibly comforted by it. He knows that I’m not much of a talker. He never tries to pry anything from me. Instead, he tells me that he loves me and that he supports me. It’s just the littlest thing that makes me feel like I’m surrounded by love and that the darkness of depression can’t engulf me.” ― Crystal N.
10. Bring us a little gift, like our favorite sweet treat, a thoughtful card or some flowers.
“Small gifts like flowers or candy are always a plus when you’re feeling low. Flowers are beautiful to look at and will often bring a smile to my face. Candy or chocolates are also a plus because they taste delicious, and who can resist chocolate?” ― Culbertson
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.