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How to help a Person with Depression

Depression can be a debilitating mental illness that interferes with sufferers’ daily lives, removing their ability to take care of themselves and others, concentrate on even simple, everyday tasks, and find enjoyment in things they once loved. People with depression may feel helpless and alone, sometimes to the point of wanting to commit suicide. Help and support from those around them can be a big step towards being able to live functional and fulfilling lives again.

The most important thing to remember when trying to help a depressed person is patience. Depression can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks like cleaning, schoolwork, or even showering and feeding oneself. Such behaviors can stem from many things, from the physical exhaustion that frequently accompanies depression to a feeling of stress at how much there is to do. Trying to push the depressed person into getting things done, or berating them for not doing their job, will only increase their levels of anxiety, making it more difficult to perform daily tasks. Remind them gently and offer to help. If you share cleaning or other duties with them, make out a schedule; seeing a list in writing can help the depressed person overcome their anxiety when they realize how small the tasks really are when broken down.

If the depressed person wants to talk, offer a caring ear to listen. Share your experiences, if they are similar. This can help overcome the pervasive idea that no one understands or cares. Again, be patient. Depression makes it more difficult to see things from other people’s point of view; this may mean that a person with depression may call you at inconvenient times and seem inconsiderate of your help. You are certainly not obliged to drop everything for them, but do try to understand their perspective and not push them away. Help them connect with a hotline, therapist, or support group.

Remember that depression is a long-lasting illness that greatly changes one’s way of thinking and understanding the world. It can be difficult to go through recovery, especially with medication, because a person with depression is no longer used to functioning and thinking normally, and such a transition can cause a shock. Don’t accuse them of not trying hard enough or not wanting to be better; this is not true, but can lead to a renewal of self-deprecating feelings and doubts about one’s ability to overcome mental illness. Remind the person with depression that recovery takes time and that they are definitely not alone.