To some extent, I like to think that when we see someone experiencing hardship we feel bad for them, to some very small extent.
More so when it has to do with a loved one or just any friend, which is why the fact that most of us don’t know how to help depressed people is pretty sad.
I would actually go as far as to say that most people fail to act properly.
Among those people, the general reaction to dealing with a depressed person breaks down into the following categories
1) The Indifferent
Back in the military, we had a heavily systematic approach towards pretty much everything.
I served in a pretty bad place, in the sense that most people serving them were considered “low-class” as far as human resources go.
Regardless, the simple truth was that they needed things to go on accordingly.
Whereas most people could afford to use their mental state as an excuse regarding certain things, it was not an option for us soldiers, and the commanders wanted to hear none of that.
Goals had to be met, discipline had to be enforced, and a lot of military-grade bureaucracy had to have been finished.
The truth was that people back there had a very little care for anything that might have been happening.
If you got sick they sent you to a doctor, the type of doctor that was heavily biased against you, and that was the end of their intervention.
Anything else was of little concern.
As such, when it came down to treating mental health, even with certain directions from military-approved specialists (most of which are massive jerks, by the way), only so little could have helped you out.
I myself never got any help and wasn’t excused from anything, so my commanders couldn’t really bother to acknowledge any of my issues – they needed me to do stuff, and schedule proceeded accordingly.
Can’t keep up? Are you depressed? Ok, what did our psychologist tell you? Nothing? Well, I am ordering to get your work done.
What’s that? Are you still ignoring my orders? Off to prison with you!
That particular system shrugged off responsibility by choosing to not acknowledge any sort of problem.
A lot of people will be like that.
They can’t really understand, or maybe they simply don’t care enough, so they just choose to move on regularly, as though they aren’t addressing someone who is dying from the inside out.
Such people, to be put simply, can’t be bothered.
And that’s fine, although depressed people may find themselves disappointed to face that particular type, since many of them are looking for support and, by extension, attention.
Well, they won’t find them here, better just move on.
2) The Belittlers
People don’t really understand other people.
Sure, we get emotions and reasons, but we don’t really “understand” any of them on any deeper level.
So we try to justify our emotions with logic – people “feel” before they think.
Don’t believe me? Well then, please tell me how does “anger” feel, and how should any angry person act whenever faced with their anger.
The obvious answer would be to take a deep breath and calm down, but that’s not all that easy, is it?
Sure, you say that angry people should act a certain way, and a lot of them supposedly “know what to do”, yet they still have trouble practicing that advice.
Case in point – even if you actually experienced clinical depression you might not bet able to react to it accordingly.
Even when faced with someone who experiences depression, you won’t be able to fully “get them” unless you experience it yourself.
For people who never experienced depression, the closest thing they can somewhat understand is sadness.
And let me tell you right here – when experiencing sadness, many symptoms of depression are indeed over the top.
Such people, even if subconsciously, think that depression is long-term sadness and that it can be shaken off just as easily.
So they give you their advice, they tell you that you are faking it, that you are overreacting and so on because they can’t otherwise rationalize why you are looking so dead all the time.
I actually don’t blame them at all of it, although I did write an in-depth review about the subject.
3) The Overly-Attached
Then, on the other side of the spectrum, there was the overly-attached bunch.
While the vast majority of people is dominated by skeptics and people who simply don’t care, there are those who do care – and express it arguably more than they should.
They either drag you into the light, practically obsessively, force you into social interactions, walk overly-carefully around you or just try to “understand you”
These people are a pain, although they aren’t really as insulting as the belittlers they also aren’t as neutral (mostly) as the indifferent.
I knew such a person, she was a very kind person.
She always came over and asked me to hang out with her, she tried introducing me to some of her friends (terrible decision, that) and didn’t even give me a moment of peace and quiet.
She was doing her best, mind you, but depressed people are very easily overwhelmed, and such an aggressive approach wasn’t doing me any favors in that sense.
Alright, so how should you act, then?
1) Give them space
Not quite the same as being indifferent.
The indifferent will continue as though nothing is wrong, so if they have any daily reactions to you they will just move on with them.
The real issue here is that most people either give too much or too little space.
If given too much “freedom” a depressed person is basically stuck with their own thoughts, leading their depression to become worse.
If they don’t get enough alone time, they might snap under the pressure, something that will make their emotional health worse.
Don’t be too careful, but don’t just leave them to their own suffering (unless you don’t care).
I guess the most specific answer would be to leave them alone for as little as you possibly can without forcing them into a tight spot.
2) Baby steps
So we talked about how depressed people tend to feel that they are pushed into the corner if you are overwhelming them, right? Get too much in their face and they might not be able to take it, but if you aren’t persistent enough then you aren’t doing any good.
So how do you take them out of their comfort zone? By taking it slow.
Sure, you might not be able to force them to spend time with your friends, but just coming over and talking to them every once in a while can go a long way.
What you are actually talking about will be discussed further down below.
This actually changes from person to person, but after a few pokes, you will be able to tell when to pull them out of their comfort zones and when to lay back for a bit
3) Provide silent support
One crucial mistake you can make is to actually acknowledge the issue.
No, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware of it, but directly talking about it with the depressed person won’t get you anywhere.
You aren’t a therapist or a licensed professional, so your words aren’t likely to be quite as measured or effective.
In fact, they might actually end up being damaging
So here’s the next best thing – don’t talk about the problem itself, but be there with them.
I already see your questioning eyebrows, so let me explain.
Depressed people are needy, they want other people to hear about how much they are suffering, and that’s fine for the most part.
But one thing that should be noted, as a rule of thumb, is that people attract similar people to themselves.
Actually discussing depression head-on would end up turning “depression” as the center of the conversation, rather than “how to treat depression”.
Depressed people want to be listened to, and any attempt to directly discuss their condition would be rendered to, from their point of view, to a talk about how bad their life is and how empty everything seems and so on.
You can try and explain them otherwise, but that won’t change their thoughts – and I am telling you this from personal experience.
Instead, try to be a good friend, try to help them enjoy life, be kind, be supportive.
Don’t focus on their own thoughts on the matter, don’t let them get the momentum to let their condition get worse.
Even if, at times, it may require you to forcefully cut them off, and thus give the wrong idea, it’s still necessary.
4) Encourage them to work on their problems
The best thing you can do to help, even more so than being a source of comfort, is to encourage them to do things that might help them with their condition.
I am not talking about simply walking up to them and saying “hey, get your ass into gear already!”, but rather a more subtle approach.
A friend of mine worked for a while with clinically unstable individuals, she constantly spent her morning performing meditation with them, day in and day out, no exceptions.
Most people don’t grasp that level of encouragement, they just tell people to get over themselves and be done with it.
The subtle approach is much more favorable in that regard – encourage them to help themselves.
This is the best kind of help that you can provide.
The whole point here is for you to be subtle about your intentions.
Not because you have anything to hide, but because you need to appeal to them on an emotional level – not a rational one.
Putting arguments as to why depression is stupid isn’t going to get you anywhere, and might actually make them feel worse should the acknowledge your words.
Instead, provide steady, patient, support and systematically move them into treating themselves, through changes in their environment, time management or even hobbies.
It’s really as simple as that.
So here’s a question for you – How do you like to be treated when you are going through a hard time?
Be sure to leave your answers in the comment section below – I read every single one of them!
If you got any questions then send me an email, I reply to those rather quickly if I do say so myself