Tuesday 19 April 2016

Depression Awareness Week: How friends and family can help

Students have shared what they have learnt about their expression with depression and what others have done to help them

-Lottie Naughton and Grace Anderson

This week is Depression Awareness Week. We want to share with you some advice from those who have been there and what their friends and family have done to help them through their darkest times. Supporting someone with depression can be very difficult, and it can be hard to watch someone you love so much spiral into a very dark place. You might not know what to say or how to act, so hearing from others what helped them could help you in supporting someone close to you. This week, take the time to ask a friend how they're doing, if they need some support or if they simply need a shoulder to cry on; you could really be making a huge difference to someones life.

Interaction and inclusion
When someone you know is hiding themselves away from the world, not participating in everyday life, it can be tough to reach out and get them involved. Small and thoughtful interactions with a person can really make their day, making them feel important and loved. Here are some everyday things friends and family have done for that really made a difference to them:

  • Spending time with me
  • Texts and phone calls to see how I am doing are always the best
  • Unexpected texts, phone calls, cards, gifts - a little reminder that someone is thinking of you goes a long way 
  • Taking me for a drive 
  • Going on a walk with me
  • Dancing around and being silly - always making me laugh 
  • Invited me to places even though I didn't always attend or it was hard to include me
  • Sometimes they don't have to address the depression, but not giving up on me is important
  • Making me a cup of tea when I need one

Kind and thoughtful surprises 
A little gift or small act of kindness shows a person they are in your thoughts and that they mean a lot to you. Sending someone a card, or planning a special day out might not seem like much to you, but for someone struggling it can make a world of difference. Here are some thoughtful surprises that have really helped:

  • Buddy Boxes 
  • Sending me surprise gifts in the post
  • Writing me meaningful cards
  • Driven a long way to come and see me when I needed them
  • Planned fun things
Unconditional and emotional support
Feeling lonely and fighting a constant battle with yourself is emotionally draining and isolating. Having someone you know you can rely on to talk to and tell you that they love you can be the light shining in on a dark gloomy day for some. Here are some examples of emotional and unconditional support received:
  • Reminding me always that they love me 
  • Telling me that I am not alone and I don't have to face it on my own - "We are here for you"
  • Unconditional support, no matter what is going on
  • Not judging me or making me feel as though I am bringing them down
  • Never being disappointed in me if I have a set back or a bad day
  • Listened to me - this is the best thing that anyone can do
  • Simply been there with me when I was in crisis
  • Telling me how proud they are of me 

Educated and thoughtful support
Being educated on depression and how it can affect individuals in different ways is an important way of showing you care. This can also help you to understand what your loved one is really going through. Here are some examples of times when a loved one has offered a thoughtful and educated response, which have been found to really help those experiencing depression:

  • Never leaving me alone when I should not have been on my own 
  • Encouraged me to try new things and to meet new people to boost my confidence
  • Patiently listening to me talking about how I felt even if I constantly repeat the same things over and over again
  • Made me talk, when I needed to but really didn't know how
  • Watching out for the signs, so they could approach me if they thought I was relapsing
  • Never felt the need to hide my illness from other friends and family due to possible embarrassment of me suffering with a mental illness
  • Knowing when to give me some time alone but not letting me isolate myself from the world
  • When I was at my lowest point, a nurse said to me - "there's only one way to go from rock bottom"

Supporting someone with depression is hard, but it can be so powerful and worthwhile. It's important to remember that although it might feel stressful for you, what they are going through will always be worse. Offering a helping hand in a time of need is a loving and encouraging act that can really make the difference to someones life.

In the words of Stephen Fry:

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