I’ve been asked a few times how you help someone struggling through depression, especially when they seem to not want help themselves. It’s a tricky one and not one I have all the answers to, but I want to say what has helped me most.
I am great at pretending that I’m ok, but the closest to me can often sense when I am struggling. I often go on the route of shutting myself off, not writing, staying off social media and not replying to messages. I shut down and by doing this I am cutting myself off and making the problem worse. The whole time I am screaming from the inside for someone to ask if I am ok.
I find it much easier to write than talk and my friends know they are more likely to get a response over text than and phone call, but at times I can be very brief and dismissive. When depression is kicking me down I feel I lose the ability to speak, to explain and ask for help. It’s scary and very isolating to feel like you want to scream, but are too scared to do so.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just to turn up, be patient, empathetic and let them open up naturally. Ask if they are ok, but care about their answer and give them time to express. Not everyone is the same, but by taking the steps to ask if someone is ok, you are helping and giving them a chance to open up.
With depression I often have felt paranoid and thought people have been talking about me, mocking me and bitching about what a burden I am. There is nothing worse than feeling like a burden to someone and it makes me shut down immediately, feeling worse off than when I started. Be reassuring, without patronising and be honest and open up about your own feelings. By sharing your own experiences you are helping them not feel so alone. Loneliness and depression go hand in hand.
If a friend or loved one is struggling with depression don’t just offer an open door, you need open the door for them, pick them up and ask them if they are ok. You are not intruding, you are showing them love that they need and a chance to share their problem. It’s not easy and can be lots to take on, but the gift you can give to someone by being open could save a life.
We have a responsibility as a society to help others, show them love and respect. We all get caught up in our own lives, but take a moment to ask someone if they are ok and listen intently to their response. Pick up on clues in their behaviour and remind them they are not alone and never will be. Your friendship is a gift.