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!!!

  • 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.