Mental Health : How to Help People Living with Depression

Hi. It’s that time again… May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While I personally talk about mental health all year round, I am very excited to join the conversation with everyone else who is rallying support for mental health awareness during this time.

Is it just me or does the word “mental” feel negative?! From what I can gather though, mental health is simply a state of well-being that every human being needs just as much as physical health, yet very few people talk about and advocate for mental health.

I am often asked for advice from people who have loved ones battling mental illness. Normally, I don’t like to give advice because I know that each person deals with mental health struggles differently. We all have our own coping skills, rituals and methods that help us get through each day so one thing that works for me, may not necessarily work for someone else. However, I love sharing my own experiences, coping mechanisms and my own needs, in the hopes that something I say may shed some light for someone else.

Looking back over those years when I was really in deep with my depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, there were many things I wished for…love, compassion, comfort, strength, the light of day, etc. More recently, I wish for the same things but it is a bit different because I have had long years of living with my mental illness. Today, I know better, although that’s not to say I have no more needs. I just cope a little better on my own now, more than I used to.

Still, I will simply share the things I wanted and needed. Please indulge me and allow me to personally go back in time and put myself back in that position…to feel how it was like again and let you know the things I secretly wanted to tell my family and close friends… And just maybe, the same things are being wished for by your loved ones today dealing with their own battles. If so, maybe, you can do something about it now.

Just be there

You don’t need to say anything. I just want you to be there. Please be there and help me feel that I am not alone in this. Your presence is all I ask for. Not your words, not anything else but your full presence-next to me, and that is enough. You don’t even need to give me any advice, because I won’t hear you. I won’t understand what you’re saying, because I am so consumed by my own thoughts and feelings. Darkness has overshadowed everything within me and you giving me advice on what to do next, makes me feel even more alone. So, if there’s one thing you can do for me…. Just please be there.

Listen

I don’t like to share much because I don’t know how to express myself. I don’t know how to describe to you what I’m feeling exactly. Frankly, I also don’t have the energy to even talk. I feel too tired and weak. I’m also afraid that you will not understand and I’m worried you won’t believe what I’m saying. Or maybe, you’ll think less of me, or judge me. I know you care about me and you want to help, but I really don’t know how else to express myself….BUT, there will be rare days where I’ll share something with you. You may not get it, nor understand it, but all I ask is for you to listen. Listen, without thinking of the next thing you’ll say, or thinking of advice or how you’ll respond. Just listen with empathy and feel what I’m trying to express to you in between the lines, because soon, I will choose not to speak again and will prefer to be silent and keep everything inside me.

Try to understand

I know you don’t understand what I’m going through and you will probably never understand unless you go through this yourself. I don’t expect you to because, I myself, don’t even understand. But you can do something to learn more about the illness. At least make an effort to understand and let me feel you truly care. In my eyes, trying to learn more is acknowledging that my illness is real and legitimate, and that way, I don’t feel so alone. Knowing that you’re looking at symptoms and ways to help alleviate the pain inside of me, is enough for me to know that you care.

Remind me that everything will be OK

When I feel that my world is falling apart and everything is out of control, I feel hopeless and desperate. I feel sad, frustrated, and totally isolated. Sometimes, reminding me that things will get better and all will be OK is enough for me to feel comfort. Such simple words to hear, but enough for me to get through another day.

Hugs!

If you feel you want to do more to help, just simply give me a HUG.
A simple, heartfelt hug is a silent way of letting me know that, I matter to you. No words, just a simple act of love and compassion and accepting me for who I am, what I am and everything that I’m going through. That’s all I ask and that’s all I need.

Prayers

Lastly, please PRAY for me. Many days I lose my faith, and I can’t find the strength in me to pray for myself or even ask for God’s guidance. I know it in my heart, but I can’t seem to fully believe it. So, in times like this, please pray for my strength, my patience, faith and wisdom to know that God will never forsake me, especially in these dark times. Please pray that I will be reminded by HIS presence and HIS light, and that this too shall pass.

Breathe. More deep breaths. And now I am returning back to the present… This is as real as it gets to me. As I was writing, I actually felt everything as I looked back. In fact, I found myself crying because I was feeling it all. I feel it all too well and I realize it’s a part of who I am today… I hope that this list helps you in some way. I know that these may sound too simple, or things you may already know to do. But, please realize that it’s really the small, simple things that matter to us, especially in the midst of the complexity of mental illness. What may sound like such a simple thing for you, can be very meaningful and valuable to me, or anyone else struggling. During the most difficult times, it really is the little things that count in life.

Thank you for letting me share some personal thoughts and feelings with you.

With love and gratitude,
Elizabeth

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Enter the giveaway by sharing your thoughts on this article in a comment below. A winner will be announced in our next newsletter!

“Let’s talk about #thegreenelephantintheroom,” because the first step in addressing mental illness and fighting the stigma is by talking about the elephant in the room.
 
We all know mental illness is something no one wants to talk about. It is highly stigmatized out of shame, embarrassment and most of the time, simply due to a lack of knowledge. This campaign, and our elephant charmed necklace, is meant to symbolize this awareness. It is a conversational piece where we can play with words and talk about mental illness in a lighter, more comfortable manner.
 
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  • Tiffany Montgomery

    Love this article! We all struggle with some sort of issue at some point in our lives (depression, anxiety) and it can vary to any degree, but EACH person handles it differently. I absolutely love “just be there”. Such a good message. Thank you for this!

  • Kimberly

    This is such a great read. Both my childhood best friends deal with depression. This post helped me navigate my own thoughts and opinions and really be there for both of them. I also have a younger brother who’s anxiety and depression really break my heart, but instead of just crying in front on him (which I try not to do, can’t help it when I see him hurting)I want to listen and just hug him and tell him how much I love him and through that action I praying he feels God’s love for him too.

  • Sarah Elizabeth

    So true about the listening! I feel the best thing anyone can do, for me, when I am having a bout of depression is for anyone to listen to me; someone who knows me and knows how to lead me in the right direction, then give me a hug! Then of course, ALWAYS prayer.

  • Kirsten Marie Long

    Thank you for sharing! I have a good friend who struggles with depression and is not a believer. I never know what to say or do. This helps a lot! I want to reach out to her and let her know what I will be there for her and listen whenever she needs someone. I will continue to pray for her depression and for her salvation, in Jesus’ name!!!

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      Hi Kirsten! I’m glad this helps a little. That’s really all you can do for your friend, just be there and listen. And that is more than enough. I wish her well. xo

  • Ashley Chowdhury

    I’m so glad to see an article on this topic. As a mental health professional and someone who struggled with postpartum depression, I understand the need for support and encouragement for anyone struggling with a mental illness.

  • Annie Lake

    This is a great article. My mother suffers with depression, and at times, I don’t know what to do or how to handle it, and I feel guilty for getting frustrated when she shuts down knowing it’s not on purpose. This gives me a better understanding

  • Daniela Hurtado Tejada

    I loved it. I really needed it because a friend is struggling depression now, so this really helps me to know what to do to help her and what thing I can say to her. It was like what just I needed it at the moment. Thanks!

  • Colleen

    Thank you for sharing very tangible ways to help my friends and family that daily deal with depression. I agree that letting them know they are loved in a way they can comprehend is so valuable. I am taking steps to learn more about depression/mental illness, so we can walk life’s journey side by side, instead of feeling like we are on two totally different planets. Blessings as you walk with Jesus!

  • Lisanne Grey

    I work in Mental Health and this article is very helpful to those who do not understand depression and how it affects those afflicted with it.

  • Zoey

    I really appreciate this post & shedding a light on how to help! What resonated most with me is the paragraph about listening & prayer.

  • Jamie B

    These are all really good points. I’d like to add that there are some people who feel like burdens to family and friends and may isolate or disappear for extended periods of time. As someone with PTSD and depression, I have a tendency to do this. Don’t give up on us. Don’t think we are being flaky or that we are bad friends. Know that we are still very much thinking about the people we care about, but reaching out and accepting support can sometimes be hard. Keep reaching out, even if we reject the support, it still means a lot that you are thinking about us.

  • Allie Molina

    Thank you for sharing your story and being so real. I don’t struggle with depression. I struggle with Social disablity. I started a business to help people understand social disabilities. Feel free to write me back if you would like to talk about some time. I would love hear more of your story.

  • Simone Latoya

    This article came at the most serendipitous time, as I was sharing my struggle with depression and anti-depressants with a friend at lunch. He has been recommended by his psychologist to get on anti-depressants. I no longer take anti-depressants, yet I know that they can be beneficial to some people. I sent him this article in the hopes that he knows I am there for him. I still battle with depression, yet through yoga, therapy, community and my faith I am better able to combat the depression in my life. I know that it will pass, I also know that talking/sharing openly has really helped me. Thank you for sharing! May God bless you and keep you.

  • Elizabeth Bookout

    I can completely relate to this as I have Bipolar II. Thank you for creating this shareable list as it is often hard to articulate what I need.

  • Syliece McBroom

    I was diagnosed with depression and ptsd this past year. It took a long time to find the help and support I needed. I have learned that some people in the church are simply uneducated on mental health. I was told several times that it was a spiritual attack and I simply needed to pray. I know what a spiritual attack is and that simply wasn’t the case. Because of that, I have teamed up with my pastor to start some classes to teach the church on mental health awareness.

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      That’s amazing Syliece! The fact that you had gathered some strength and taken initiative in spite of it all, is so powerful and inspiring. Good luck and sending you love and prayers for your continued healing.

  • Power House People PHP

    Powerful….simply powerful and moving. As a sister who has been in this darkness lost and disoriented I found hope only from those things you mentioned. Today I am not suffering but tomorrow maybe different thank you for sharing your vulnerability. This is empowering!

  • Lorena Hebert

    Thank you for sharing.
    I also hate the word “mental” it really does feel negative. I find if you say you have a mental illness or suffer from depression people automatically treat you differently whether they know they are doing it or not, I do not know.
    I find when I`m having a really rough time I do ALOT of Bible journaling and read a lot of scriptures, Its what pulls me through and hugs, lots and lots of hugs from my toddler.

  • Sou Le

    Mental health is an important issue. One that most cultures don’t except, and therefore, don’t address. I’m​ an African American women who grew up in a prominently African American area. I had a friend who I grew up with that was always quiet. Although she was quiet you could see she was sad, but she always denied it if you asked her if she was ok. Later in years she would share more of her story, so we naturally assumed that her sharing meant she was coming to terms with her emotions, self esteem, and mental picture of herself. Unfortunately, she committed suicide shortly thereafter. Looking back I wished we had been able to recognize and help her to cope with her personal traumas. However, we grew up in a culture of what happened in the house stays in the house.

    I petition anyone/everyone to find an outlet and use it to tell your story and Continue to tell it until you save a life. If know one told you they love you, I Love you!

  • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

    Hi Abby! My heart goes out to you and your husband. Believe it or not, my husband is also still learning how to support me. In fact, Ive been going through an episode in the last few days myself and since he’s read this, he was trying hard to just be there for me. There were times, I asked me to just leave me alone because I needed that space and confront all the emotions on my own. It’s a process, and there are times I feel bad for my husband, but at the same time, there’s nothing much I could do… but at the end of the day, I’m sure your husband will know and feel, when you are there for him. Just give him some time.
    Sending you both love and prayers.

  • Vanessa L Vaughan

    I could have written this myself, if I could collect my thoughts so eloquently. I’m almost thinking some depression and anxiety is creeping back up.
    I must pray more!
    Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Valerie Jones

    This post is timely and prompted me to write on my own blog about my mental health issues and my hesitation to seek help. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Katie Lambert

    Thank you for your honesty, openness and willing to share a piece of your life. It is a beautiful picture of how to serve one another and especially serve those in our community who are struggling. To lean in well and just be.

  • Ida

    This post is really good and the advice is something I can really need as someone who has and have had friends struggling with mental illness and really want to help, but don’t want to sound insensitive at the same time.
    And that elephant necklace looks AMAZING!!

  • Hailey Escobar

    I am so grateful that you covered this topic. I have suffered from depression since high school and while I have taken steps to control it, I always have friends who say “oh, you don’t have depression” or they’ll try to compare it to their own problems as if their’s is so much worse so I shouldn’t complain. We all suffer from something and some of us are more sensitive to it. It doesn’t mean others can minimize it to their standards. Listening and trying to understand is the most important way that someone can support a person dealing with depression.

  • amber

    Thank you for sharing and bringing awareness. Having a parent that struggles with severe depression, it’s hard to know what to do or say sometimes. It affects so much but there is help, and it is so encouraging to know you made it through.

  • Jenny

    I loved every single word, as one who struggles I strongly second everything you said!! Lately I’ve tried to bring thoughts together like this for some loved ones and been unable to, I am so relieved I can share this with them. Also, I would add, my friends who live far away and are aware of me, they will message me, text me, or send me pins on Pinterest, simple hellos, funny things, just to check in, let me know I’m in their thoughts, that support and knowing I’m in their thoughts helps immensely. Thank you for this article!

  • Rebekah

    This is also kind of encouraging. Knowing that I’m not the only one who just needs a hug when everything seems to be falling apart, not the only one who can’t always put into words what I am thinking and feeling. Big love to you all ❤️

  • Dr.LorThom

    This was a great list and I wish this was a post that I had the chance to read a few months ago. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and I was too embarrassed to even discuss it with my friends, family and church family. The stigma of mental illness is quite powerful and I did not want to accept that I had an illness because I was always the strong one that can pull through every situation. Thank you for sharing because many of the thoughts you share are so poignant for me. I am still not out of the woods and I get good days and bad days but I know that God will help me, even in my dark days.

  • Nancie Mandeville

    Depression can be for a season or it can be longer periods in our lives. The Lord has taken me through much of what caused my earlier depression and He is walking with me now in the season of grieving the loss of one of our children (my step-son) who passed away six months ago. You are right in that no one can really understand what you are going through and I certainly don’t want anyone to walk through the days we are right now as a family. Yet God provides. Friends who will listen, friends who will hug, friends who will pray. We are trusting in Him that He will provide the peace that passes all understanding and use this for our good. Something I could have never imagined before my salvation. One day our prayer is to be able to stand alongside any other families that He brings our way to share our testimony and reflect His love, His faithfulness and His mercy. Thank you for sharing your insights.

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      I am so sorry to hear about your step-son Nancie. My deep sympathies and prayers to you and your family. xo

  • April

    Thank you for helping to bring mental illness to light. It will only become normalized if we keep talking about it!

  • Ari

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing and open your heart! We need to start talking about real struggles and this was definitely a topic that really got me. So powerful! God Bless you guys and keep pursuing His calling!

  • As someone who just picked up her very first bottle of anti-depressants yesterday, I relate to this post so very much. I especially like the no talking parts. Please don’t try to fix me, you can’t. Please don’t try to make me happy, you can’t. Please don’t tell me to just be happy, I can’t. Please don’t try to give me helpful hints, I won’t take them nor do them. Please just sit there, be with me, let me cry on your shoulder, and hold me/hug me, but only if I ask for it. It’s so hard to explain and I know, so hard for the other loved ones in my life to understand. But this article is so helpful. Thank you for writing and sharing. Hugs to you. <3

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      Sending you so much love and prayers on your healing journey, Tina. Stay strong and keep fighting the good fight! xo

      • Thank you Elizabeth! I’ve fought taking meds for a few years now but I’m embracing them as a tool like yoga, tea, exercise, or meditation. It feels like one more step in this fight and while there is a stigma in taking these pills (I think that’s why I fought for so long), I feel this is a good step. It’s empowering when you can admit you can’t do this on your own anymore and you ask for that help.

  • Nancy Ingersoll

    Yes, you have some great advice…especially the listen and pray part… My daughter suffered from an eating disorder (really, suffers because it is a lifelong battle), which was either triggered by or caused depression (chicken & egg syndrome, we don’t know which caused which, just that they both suck). And, yeah, we do feel like it is the elephant in the room, much of the time.
    That is why the little elephant giveaway sounds lovely.

  • Heather Lease Arena

    Great article! Being someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression since the age of 15, I think we need to have more open conversations about how to support and encourage those who battle this disease every day. Sometimes I don’t know why I feel the way I do. Sometimes I don’t have a good reason. 🙁 But that’s when I remember: I have people who love me and a God who is FOR me and then I am comforted.

    I want to be an advocate for mental awareness in my community!

  • Evangelina Marques

    I love this article, such a time for this. So many people with anxiety and depression have been joining our church so I know this is definitely an epidemic and I’m glad to see that there is a way that I can be apart of the solution to help others going through a rough time. <3

  • Joy Johnston

    Such truth!! Thank you for this.

  • karina Lewis

    This is such an encouragement, thank you for writing! I work in the mental health field and this article is a wonderful explanation of how we can be there for one another 🙂

  • Jessica Otero

    Thank you for writing this beautiful post. I had never know about mental illness, until I personal experienced anxiety for myself last year. A lot of the advice you wrote to help others understand related to me. Especially when you said that you want someone to listen. When you try to explain how you feel, it just doesn’t make sense when you try to explain it. That was the hardest thing for me, to try to explain but no one understanding me, unless they personally have lived it. But I do know that this time in my life was the season I drew the most close to Jesus on a DEEP relationship. I learned hoe real and alive he is in my life, I learned that I am never alone, ever, even if I feel like I am, I learned what it means to really TRUST him, not just say that I trust him, I learned how to be still and see the beauty all around me. It was a season for a purpose, that taught me how to listen to my body, how to set boundaries for myself , how NO is a godly answer and how to respect me , and my me time, the importance of it!
    I think it is beautiful that you shared your heart, for others to understand and have a difference perspective if they have never personally gone through it.
    Another beautiful thing that I learned through my season of pain and struggle how to relate to people who are in pain. Tis is the most beautiful thing t learn, that there is a purpose always through your pain and struggle.
    Thanks again!

  • L.E.F.

    It is amazing how God works!!!! This blog came to me at the perfect time. You have no idea how much this article is helping me in helping others. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. God bless you!!

  • Fallon Costa

    Thank you for this. I have lived with depression since I was a teen. It wasn’t until last year (about 10 years later) that I started to learn how to actually live with it. I wasn’t taught that depression is something you have to work at everyday. Whether its a good day or a bad day you still have to put in work. Im hoping to start doing some advocacy for mental health/awareness:)

  • Sam

    Thank you for your words. They truly speak volumes upon volumes. As someone who is currently struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you put the words that have gone through my head, all so perfectly together. “You don’t need to say anything. I just want you to be there.” <– That right there, hitting me in the feels.
    Thank you for your honesty, thank you for your heart, thank you for your words!

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      Thank YOU. 🙂
      Sending you lots of love and prayers Sam. xo

  • Ricco

    Thank you Elizabeth for putting into words what I could not many years ago when I was in the midst of my first battle with depression. I had a husband at the time and he didn’t quite understand what I was dealing with. No fault to him, he had no idea what mental illness looked like. He very much thought it was as simple as sucking it up and changing my mood. But it was deeper than that. This was something that plagued me from childhood but didn’t hit the surface and become known to me until I was in my early 30’s. I was and still am at times unaware of an onset of depression. Meaning, I could feel so depressed, confused, exhausted, and mentally depleted, but still carry on with my day as if nothing was bothering me. This is absolutely dangerous and even more terrifying. Unbeknownst to me that is when anxiety also began to creep in. And bed time was when everything surfaced. Which meant no sleep. And no sleep is bad for mental illness. I say all that to say, everything you mentioned in your article was on point, but I would like to add “Be Aware”. Those who suffer from mental illness are sometimes unaware and able to hide their episodes from those closest to them as well as themselves. It helps when someone notices and becomes aware of subtle yet obvious changes in you, and are able to address their concerns to you in a gentle yet loving way. We have to get back to paying attention to others. Loving on each other. Caring for each other. Matthew 22:39 says “love your neighbor as yourself”. A simple smile, or hello, or even eye contact speaks volumes to someone who may be battling with depression or anxiety at that moment. Those small gestures of kindness will remind you that you are here, present, living life, and someone sees you.

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      So much truth in this. One hello can wash away so much pain in someone’s life.
      Thank so much for sharing Ricco, as your story almost parallels mine.I wish you well and I pray that you continue to thrive on your healing journey. xo

  • Jennifer J. Pawluk

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflections, Elizabeth. I hope that you continue to empower others through your advocacy, knowing that it is meaningful. I have taken your words to heart.

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      I appreciate that Jennifer, thank you so much! xo

  • Cheyenne Weremay

    Thank you for your transparency. I have struggled with anxiety, but never depression. However my mom has always battled the “dark cloud” as she calls it. When I was in college I was so afraid that I would get a call saying my mom took her life. I didn’t know how to help her, and I still don’t. For mother’s day this year I bought her a sting of hope bracelet from link of hearts. The bracelet says “keep going”. My mom now looks at that bracelet whenever that dark cloud comes over her and she does keep going. I pray it’ll keep her going for as long as possible. Thank you for the difference you’re making.

    • Elizabeth Tiglao Guss

      That truly warms my heart Cheyennne, thank you for sharing. It surely validates why I and Link of Hearts exist and I pray that your mom’s simple bracelet (thanks to you!) will be her daily reminder of hope, courage and strength to keep going (as it has been with me since my diagnosis). Thank you again for sharing and much love to you and your mom. xo

  • Adrianna Mauzy

    I think this article is great at describing the little things that matter. Being as I have gone through periods of depression, it really is the best feeling to just have someone around, who cares about you, and puts in the bit of effort to be understanding. We should definitely talk more about mental health in our society, because it does affect so many people.