By: Candace Martell
For those who don’t experience depression, it can be difficult to know how to help loved ones who do. If that’s you, I want you to know that supporting your friends who are struggling doesn’t have to be complicated. I lived with depression for two years, and during that time, I learned that some of the simplest words and actions can have profound impacts. I’d like to share some of those deeds with you today, with the hope that you’ll be inspired and encouraged to help your loved ones battling depression.
- Invite Them to Social Activities
When I was suffering from depression, a friend invited me to go to church with her. While I was there, I met a woman whom I deeply resonated with, and who helped me become much more involved in my faith. My friend’s simple invitation resulted in new and meaningful connections and community for me. It also got me out of the house and the places where my depression set in and took hold, which was an incredible relief.
It’s common for people with depression to want to withdraw and isolate themselves from others, but this can further worsen their mental health. You can help them get outside of themselves by including them in your plans and inviting them to take part in easy, no-pressure outings like grabbing coffee or going for a walk.
- Pray With Them
In my hardest moments, I found that praying both with and for others was a source of great healing and relief, and I’m grateful for those who encouraged me to do so. It was a comfort to know that I was seen and known by God in my struggles, and that I could help others through my prayers as well. Prayer helps us to think beyond our depression and beyond ourselves, to be with our Creator and to know that we are loved.
Creating opportunities to pray with your friends struggling with depression will make them feel supported and help encourage them to spend time with the ultimate Healer of their souls.
- Encourage Them in Their Interests
When I was depressed, I gave up many of my previous hobbies, such as water coloring. When a friend asked me to paint with her one afternoon, however, I remembered how much I loved it. Depression had dulled my personality but rediscovering my love for art helped me feel alive again and express feelings that had long been buried.
No matter what your loved one’s interests are (cooking, hiking, researching, traveling, etc.), helping them reconnect to those things can offer them a reprieve from their depression.
- Ask If the Person Has Suicidal Thoughts or Feelings
A woman from my church asked if I I ever had suicidal thoughts, and I answered that I did. I shared this with her hoping that it might relieve the burden of keeping the feelings to myself. In her concern, she offered her support, as well as some solutions, such as having friends and family monitor me—especially at night when the suicidal thoughts most often presented themselves. My parents used to stay on the phone with me for hours until I fell asleep, and it meant the world to me.
Asking a friend if they’re feeling suicidal can be had thing to do, but many people’s lives have been saved because someone had the courage to ask. If the person acknowledges being suicidal, offer to take them to the hospital and/or let their family/therapist/doctor know. Feeling suicidal and being alone is a dangerous combination. Just sitting and being with the person, even if it’s just reading a book or the newspaper while they rest, can be incredibly comforting. For more information on helping a person with suicidal ideation, see this recent article.
Ultimately, there’s nothing we can do to “fix” another’s depression, but it is my hope that the suggestions I’ve shared here will help your friend feel supported and loved in her struggles. I empathize with you and am praying for you all.
Additional Reading : 5 Tips for Helping a Depressed Friend or Loved One
National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/
Better Help Counseling: https://www.betterhelp.com
Hope for Mental Health: https://hope4mentalhealth.com/
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text 741741
Candace Martell graduated from Olivet Nazarene University, IL, with a bachelor’s degree in science and nutrition and is now a dietetic graduate student and intern at Illinois State University. She is working to earn her RDN credentials and hopes to work in a Women, Infants, and Children’s (WIC) office. She resides in Normal, IL, and can often be found reading, spending time on nature’s trails, and writing about her spiritual path.