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As someone who has battled seasons of crippling depression on and off for many years, I wanted to share some advice, based on my experience, how you can help someone going through such a difficult phase, with some important do’s and don’ts
I want to start off with the absolute worst thing you could possibly do, that is to shame or guilt the person. It should be common sense that this is an extremely cruel thing to do, but this does happen. I have experienced this. I have had things said to me like “why do you always look like a depressed bum” and “why do you always look so f***ing sad?” I have had many things said to me, including people close to me, that drove me even deeper into my depression. I was going through a phase at one point where I was making intentional self-cuts on my forearm/wrist. I was caught one time, by a group of people around my age, doing it in a public place. They reported it, though I begged them not to, but they had to do it for my safety. One person I am associated with who will remain nameless for this said “that is going to be all f***ing over.” This person was embarrassed by it, and just accused me a play acting later forcing me to show my wrists saying “knock it the f*** off.” I had people who saw my cuts when I wasn’t wearing a bandage hold my wrist up for everyone to see. One person, who was just a nasty person in general, mockingly said “don’t pick on him guys, he might kill himself, or at least try to again.” All of the shaming that some people have given me hurt badly, so let my testimony of that be a tool for you.
Something you really need to do is be patient with the person, and let their condition run its course. Depression is a come and go condition in most cases, and sometimes, their are only certain people they may want to talk to. Also listen to the person often without even replying until they are finished. Just let them get out what they are bottling up inside. Show deep interest in what they are saying. Use encouraging words with them such as “I’m here for you” and “I care about you.” Going back to the event of the group catching me cut myself, the first person to notice it (I won’t release her name for the sake of her privacy) shockingly asked “why are you cutting yourself? Stop doing that!” That was enough to make me throw the safety pin away from me. After a few minutes of conversation from the shocked individuals of the group, some of them not knowing what to do, they left, and took the pin with them to ensure my safety. I then went out and found them a few minutes later, begging them not to say a word to anybody, as I was afraid I would be sent back to the psych unit at the hospital. One person said “your secret is safe with me” another said something along the lines of “how would you get help if you keep it to yourself?” The girl that actually stopped me, was just glaring at me with a worried look on her face. You know from earlier in this article, that they had reported it. The next day, I noticed a message sent to me on Facebook by the girl that stopped me. I still, to this day, have this message saved. She said “if you ever need anybody to talk to I’m always here.” I replied back “Thanks, I just don’t see any reasons for living anymore.” She then replied “What happened last night?” to which I replied “A whole bunch of stuff on my mind.” She then said “Like what? You can talk to me about this.” I didn’t say anything back to her after that, but the fact that she reached out to check on me and make sure I was ok. That, to this day, means so much to me, and I think well of her over that. Let that be a tool for you. Sometimes just assuring the person that you are there for them can be very helpful.
Something else, that you should avoid, is try to give advice saying why you think they are depressed. You have no idea, and they will more than likely recoil your opinion. Also stay positive, and don’t let their depression get you down. They need someone supportive, not someone to be sad WITH.
Something else that can be very helpful is to invite them to do things with you. Being secluded is often what we want, but that can be very dangerous. Something you could invite them to do with you are acts of service, so they can feel worth more, and make sure you let them know their worth.
Last but most certainly not least, pray for the person, and even pray with them. Even offer to lead them in prayer. Also let them KNOW you are praying for them.
This list is far from complete , but these pieces of advice will hopefully be very helpful to you if you ever come across someone in this condition. It is my prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.