This last year has been a doosey! I had a baby, my fourth boy and some pretty serious medical issues after having him that took a few months to recover from, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Any one of those things is difficult to deal with and would cause someone some amount of depression and I already struggle with depression on top dealing with that. I feel that I've found some things that others can do to help someone they know who is dealing with depression.
Depression. Its an interesting word isn't it? I mean it really makes anyone uncomfortable when some one says "I struggle with depression" or "I've been really depressed lately" and the first thing they usually say to try and lighten the mood is "I know just what mean!" and go on about a time when they had a week or two of feeling sad. I'm sure what they are saying is a real feeling to them but to someone who is really struggling with major depression that can make them feel even more isolated since they haven't felt this way for a few days or a month. Most likely they have been struggling with depression for years and when someone says something that diminishes what they are going through it makes them feel even worse, because obviously they must be the only ones who feel the true meaning of depression, which is a very lonely and isolating place to be.
Depression is a place that is not fun or happy or where anyone would willingly go and yet 1 in 10 adults struggle with it! Wikipedia says this about a person with a major depressive disorder "A person having a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood, which pervades all aspects of life, and an inability to experience pleasure in activities that were formerly enjoyed." Its a feeling of complete apathy that you simply can't care or enjoy the things you desperately want too! No matter how hard you try you can't make yourself feel better or cure yourself or you would.
I've been there. I've struggled off and on with depression over the years and it is not a fun, good or friendly place to be. Everyone struggles with it differently. Anxiety is one of my first symptoms and it tends to just get worse. I get near suicidal when asked to speak in front of crowds or if I'm in a situation where there's too much pressure. I also have very little patience with my loved ones (ironically) and anger is my first defense in that state of mind. I have no drive to do anything that I used to enjoy and I wonder what life has to offer me when there is no escape from the darkness I feel.
Why am I sharing these personal things with you? Well Over the years I have tried many things to help myself, prescriptions, counseling, over the counter drugs, herbs, diet, self help books, increased religious efforts and even essential oils. Everything has helped a little for a short period but nothing has "cured" me. My purpose is to help those who know someone who is struggling with depression.
The first thing to do is nothing. I know, I know that seems counterproductive but the last thing someone who is really struggling needs is someone getting in their space and showing them everything they should be doing; if they were capable of doing it they would.
The Second thing is to listen. Let them complain, talk about their dreams, their worries (which may be many) and anything they want to talk about. Don't judge or fix anything just listen.
Talk to them. Chat with them about normal stuff that isn't to heavy or deep and without expectations. Sometimes just chatting with a friend about trivial things is helpful.
Invite them places or to do something. Note: I said invite them but please don't put pressure on them to come with you or do an activity; in other words an invitation without expectation. Inviting helps them to know you care and letting them know its ok if they don't feel like they can, is even better.
Visit them or drop something off. A little visit can do wonders for someone who is struggling! If you don't have time for a full visit then drop something off like flowers, candy, a card, something homemade, a meal, anything to show you've been thinking of them and care.
Offer specific help. If they have small children offer a specific day and time to watch their kids, pet watching or walking, bring them dinner one night or lunch. Note: just offering help with no follow up is useless because likely they won't call if they needed it.
The last thing is to have patience. Being a committed friend or family member is going to require patience and realizing that this could last for months or longer. Be there for them but be patient; it is going to take time for them to feel better and truthfully they might always struggle to some extent so be mindful of that when they start to act different.
Depression is a hard thing to watch someone go through. I hope that this list will help you help someone else!
*WARNING* If you suspect someone is going to commit suicide or hurt themselves then take them immediately to the emergency room! I had someone I cared for who was getting suicidal so I said "we're going to the doctor" He wasn't too happy but I took him anyways. There I found out that he was worse than I realized. They said to just take him to the ER if it ever happened again because they are equipped for emergencies like that. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
I am not a doctor or a therapist so my advise is not to replace what a current caregiver is saying, its just my experience.