When a loved one is struggling with depression, it can be hard to know what to say. We can feel powerless in these situations, aware that what we say could be damaging if not thought through properly. There is no perfect way to talk to someone affected by depression but making an effort can be comforting and help in more ways than you think. Here are five helpful things to say to a loved one who is living with depression:
1. ‘I am here if you want to talk’
Depression can manifest itself in many ways, but it is common that those affected are reluctant to ask for help. You cannot force someone to talk about how they are feeling. No one owes you a conversation in exchange for your support. However, for someone to know you are there makes a huge difference. Be patient. Open up the lines of communication and let them take it from there. Remind them often that you will be there whenever they want to talk.
2. ‘What can I do to help today?’
Getting out of bed can be a challenge for those with depression. Symptoms include fatigue and lethargy. Ask your loved one what you can do to help them get through their day. This does not have to be huge tasks, it will often be small things like having a cup of tea together, sharing a lift to work or even accompanying them to the doctor. Sometimes, giving them space is just what they need, so be sure to ask if they simply need time to themselves.
3. ‘You are not a burden’
Those with depression often need help with everyday tasks such as cooking food, shopping or even getting dressed. You must let your loved one know that you are helping because you want to. You want to create a space where they feel comfortable asking for this kind of help when they need it. Let them know that they are not putting you out in any way.
4. ‘You are so important to me’
Depression causes people to have feelings of doubt and worthlessness. It is important for you to tell your loved one outright how much you value them in your life. Try and do this as often as you can. Let them know specifically why you love and respect them. Even if they do not respond to this, your words can be powerful.
5. ‘What you are feeling is real. I am sorry you are feeling like this’
Those with depression have heard it all before: ‘snap out of it’…‘eat more vegetables and you will feel better’…‘you’re just being lazy’…‘there are people worse off than you’. These are extremely unhelpful ways of responding to anyone. Even if you do not fully understand how your loved one is feeling, it is crucial that you validate their emotions or lack thereof.
If you have a loved one who needs help, encourage them to visit www.pieta.ie for a range of supports.