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Episode 192: Supporting Others With Depression

Although we need to look at any issue on a case by case basis there are some main rules that apply to pretty much everyone with depression.

Such as. Don't try to offer advice.

I know it's tempting but it's unlikely that whatever you say they havent already heard before and it often makes people feel more hopeless.
Be aware of the your own issues. For whatever reason you might feel the need to try and fix them. It's a common issue and might come from a deeper sense of responsibility over things that go wrong. Especially when it's our partner. Sometimes people think that it's their fault if their partner is depressed. Which is like blaming yourself for someone having a genetic heart condition.

It's not your fault. So dont try to fix it!

Sometimes we just want to moan and complain, we just need to have someone listen to us whilst we have a whinge about our life. That doesn't mean we then need our partner to say "Here's what you need to do."
If you find yourself thinking "Well if they dont want my advice. Why are they even talking to me about it?" then don't devalue simply being there for them. You don't need to provide anything in order to have worth.
Just listen to them, let them talk about how they're feeling and if they don't want to talk don't pressure them to. We want their brain to remember how to feel safe not further deepen their depression with expectations from you that they can't meet. Even if all you do is simply be there, sitting with them so that they're not alone. That might be all the support they need. One thing I would say that while your doing that. Try not to offer perspectives and comparisons. I know its tempting to try and help by saying things like "It's not that bad" or "There's always someone worse off than you." It might not seem obvious until you think about it but there will ALWAYS be someone worse of than you, no matter what you're going through.
That's irrelevant. It would mean that out of the nearly 8 billion people on the planet there is actually only one, single solitary person that's actually allowed to be unhappy with their life right now. That's ridiculous.
But thats what "You have no reason to be depressed. There's always someone worse off than you" means. It's a matter of perspective. What we experience isn't what causes our emotional state. It's how we feel about it that does that.

Similarly, "I know what you mean. I was bad last year when my mum died" might be true but it's not likely to help them feel supported. What it may do though is invalidate how they feel.
If you have experiences to share with them about YOUR past and how YOU felt then the only way that's likely to help them is if you talk about it in such a way to inspire hope that how they feel isn't permanent.
Reminding them that they haven't always felt this way can help. It might not change anything in the moment but if they can see that depression isn't actually who they are. It's just something they have, it can help them to feel a little more in control of their life.

Be patient. Depression is an illness and prevents people from thinking and feeling healthy. It makes people feel unlovable unlikeable, embarrassed by their very existence. Ashamed.
Remind them that you care. If they keep away then get in touch. Don't assume that they need to be left alone. There's a balance to be had. So if you already know that they're struggling and their text messages get further and further apart. Reach out. Ask them how they're doing and if they just say "Fine" then ask again. Text back with something like "Are you sure you're fine mate, you've been really quiet lately. I'm here if you need to talk."

Depression is overwhelming and thinking they're a burden to others makes things worse. If you care for them then show them that.
If they'd broken their legs, were stuck in a wheelchair and couldn't reach something on a shelf you'd pass it to them. If they were stuck in bed with flu you'd expect them to be weakened by it and would do things for them. Tell them that.
If they aren't eating well then do some shopping for them. Invite yourself round to cook a meal. Chat to them about how to find a therapist. Or how they can approach their GP about medication. Both would probably be needed, but finding a therapist isn't easy. Scouring the registers for people that might be a good fit takes a lot of time and effort.
So there are a lot emails to send. Help them with that if you can and offer to take them to their appointments if they need you to.

BUT. Although it's great to support someone else who's struggling, don't leave yourself behind in the process. You can't pour from an empty cup as the old phrase goes.
Let them know that you understand how valuable having a rant can be, that if they want to complain about how angry their depression makes them, how fed up they are with how they feel that it's OK for them to tell you that. Tell them that you know they aren't asking for solutions that you're there to be someone they can to offload to without judgement or criticism.

Show them the alternatives too. It's possible that they might want to talk to someone in an emergency because their suicidal thoughts are too strong and they need someone to keep them safe for a few hours whilst it passes. But they might not want that to be you. Relying on you in those moments might make them feel worse. Some people need a complete stranger in those times and links to those places are below.

To sum up.
Don't try to fix them, just be there to listen.
You don't need any magic words. Listening is usually way more important to someone than talking to them is.
Regularly ask them if they need anything and show them they're not alone.

Samaritans UK
116 123

Sane UK
0300 304 7000

0300 123 3393

Text: 85258

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