It’s hard to know what you say when someone you know is suffering from depression or anxiety. Too often, what we have to say sounds trite or awkward, or we can be unintentionally hurtful.
If your friend or family member shares their depression with you, here are a few things that might help.
Often, people with depression might be struggling with more than just sadness. During a depressive episode, it can be hard to keep up with things around the house, like everyday chores, cooking, and errands.
While you might not be equipped to help lift your friend or relative out of their depression, you can ease the stress a bit by offering to help them cook a meal, take some clothes to the laundromat, or sweep up a little bit so things aren’t as overwhelming.
Rather than jumping right to offering advice, it can be helpful just to let someone with depression know that you’re listening. Often, people experiencing mental health symptoms can feel unheard or lost.
They may feel that no one is really listening to how they feel, or that they’re boring people with their story. Instead of trying to “fix” the problem immediately or say that you know how they feel, it can be helpful and validating just for someone to know you’re all ears.
People with depression are sometimes made to feel that they are weak or that something is wrong with them. Assure your loved one who is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety that you see them as a strong person, especially for “coming out” and being open about what they’re dealing with.
A common symptom of depression is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or futility. Someone with depression might feel like what they’re doing is pointless or that they lack motivation, connection, and direction.
Make sure that the person in your life with depression knows that they matter to you and that their life has meaning.
You shouldn’t push someone with depression beyond their limits, but suggesting therapy or medication in a gentle way can be a good idea. Consider asking someone if they have spoken to their primary care doctor (or their existing counselor or therapist, if they already have one) about their feelings.
A qualified professional is the best person to speak to in the case of mental health symptoms.