It’s difficult to know how to help someone with depression — especially if you’ve never been in their shoes before. Not to mention, everyone experiences mental health struggles differently. How can you tell someone is struggling? If you’ve noticed negative changes in their thoughts, feelings, or behaviours, it’s likely they may be dealing with depression. Changes are often intense, lasting two weeks or more, and negatively affecting their habits, routines, and personal relationship. Thankfully, there are supportive ways to help your loved ones struggling with depression.
State the facts without assumptions
Depression is a sensitive topic for those facing it, so break the ice in a way that’s objective. Tell them the changes you’ve noticed and ask if they’re okay. This is a low-pressure way to check in and potentially make a huge positive impact in someone’s life.
How to open a conversation:
- “I haven’t heard from you in a while! What’s going on in your world? Is everything okay?”
- “Hey I’ve noticed you haven’t been able to make it to dinner the last few times, we missed you. Has something been keeping you busy?”
- “You’ve seemed low energy lately. Anything you want to chat about?”
Stating exactly what you’ve noticed without assumptions opens up the conversation and gives them the space to share what they’re comfortable with. When exactly should you say something? If you’ve noticed something is off, it never hurts to check.
Adding a level of care can really help move the conversation forward. You can do this by giving them your full attention, asking them how you can help, or offering a hug. You can even offer practical help like dropping off meals, helping them make a doctor’s appointment, or giving them a ride. Taking a few things off their plate can free up the mental space to take care of themselves.
Hear them out
Now that you’ve opened the conversation, allow them the space to speak their mind. Practice active listening — this means asking follow-up questions and validating their feelings and experiences. If you can’t relate or don’t have the answers, don’t pretend to! Simply lending a non-judgemental listening ear is all it takes in this stage. If you’ve had similar experiences, share sparingly — you want to keep the focus on them. So while sharing your advice may seem helpful, it’s often pulling away from their experience.
How to be present during a tough conversation:
- Give them your full attention (put your phone away!)
- Make eye contact, turn your body to face them, and uncross your arms and legs
- Nod to show you’re following along, and validate their feelings
- Avoid interrupting
- Don’t try to fill every silence — they may still be processing what they want to share
- If you’re unclear about something, just ask
Connect them to help
While we want to help someone with depression as much as possible, sometimes there’s only so much we can do. Know when it’s time for a mental health professional to step in. Yes, we can open conversations and lend a good listening ear, but it’s often not in our place to give advice or try to fix. This is also important in maintaining your personal relationship — we don’t want to overwhelm your own capacities either. So after hearing out your loved one, offer to connect them to someone who can really help.
How to connect someone to professional help:
- Helping them find a counsellor
- Making a doctors appointment for them
- Driving them to an appointment
- Following up after a session to ask how it went
The earlier they can get connected to help, the better! Let them know there are resources available, and they don’t have to go through depression alone.
Wellin5’s team of clinical counsellors are here to help — no matter your location or busy schedule. Get accessible and affordable online counselling that meets you exactly where you are. Get matched with a counsellor who meets your unique needs and start your first session in just 1-3 days. Learn more.