Ways to help people in your life when they are low or depressed
I have, over the last few weeks, taken part in a course which looks at what Jesus had to say about blessing and the kind of people who find blessing. It is a practical course where we are set tasks to do each week. This week has been about being a blessing through seeking justice.
Imagining how we would like the world to be and doing something practical about it. This post is my attempt at that.
To be honest, most of my suggestions on helping people find their way through life when depressed or low comes down to things that I have found work, or things I would find a blessing myself.
It has been to some degree or another, a feature of most of my adult life. Like so many, the last 12 months have magnified it considerably. I have had more trouble with it over this last year than I have for the best part of ten years. On the bright side, I am also much better equipped to deal with it than i was in the past, but it still sucks.
It is worth bearing in mind that the spectrum of low through to really really depressed is both wide and deep. And how you help will depend on how well you know the person, how much (or not) they want to be helped and how much you are able to give without shooting yourself in the foot.
The difficulties depression brings are many, but just imagine trying to get on and do an ordinary day when:
- Your brain feels like someone removed it, put it on the shelf and filled your head with cotton wool instead.
- You feel anxious like you are about to take an exam on which the rest of your life depends
- Your inner voice is constantly telling you that you are rubbish, no one loves you and you might as well die.
- When you are presented with any kind of decision be it what to have for dinner or which pair of socks to put on, it puts you into an emotional tailspin
- You are thoroughly exhausted and either cant sleep at all or need to sleep 15 hours in every 24.
- You are full of grief like feelings which at times are so strong its physically painful.
- As you cope less and less, your world shrinks to fit what you can manage until you are shut indoors unable to make contact with anyone.
So what can we do to help someone? To be honest, my ideas mostly come down to making sure the person continues to know they are not forgotten and not alone. Pick the things you like and that are relevant, leave the rest.
Keep in contact
Bear in mind that not everyone will feel able to talk on the phone. Whatsapp, email and especially physical mail are really useful.
Try not to put people on the spot – “how are you” can floor people or make them feel like they need to get better quickly so they have something to say. Perhaps try “how has today been?” instead.
Small gifts or a handwritten note can give people physical evidence that they are cared for at a time when they can’t trust what their brain is telling them. There is so much out there for free to beautify anything you send (see links below for examples). Gifts which help self care are far more valuable than their material worth.
Whether you believe in God or not, how ever you are able, positive thoughts thoughts or asking Jesus for strength and healing – lift up your friend in prayer. It will make a difference to both of you.
Even in these socially distanced times, it is possible to offer practical help. From shopping or providing home cooked meals or making phone calls on behalf of the person you are supporting.
Getting outdoors and exercise are incredibly valuable but it can feel just too much to get out of the door alone. Organising to go walking with someone where you turn up on their doorstep at a prearranged time, prepared to wait while someone gets ready because they haven managed to do that yet, is a real gift.
The crisis card
A crisis card or plan, is something a person writes while they are well. In it they detail what they would like to happen if they become really unwell. It is invaluable because it helps that person remain in control of their lives and gives you, the helper a list of things that really do help. If you are in a good enough relationship with someone, this is something you might suggest to them. Blurt Foundation Crisis Plan.
Get help and get educated
Helping someone with a mental illness can mean being in for the long haul. It can also take a lot out of you. So dont go it alone. As a minimum, have someone in your life you can speak to in confidence and how YOU are. But also, where ever possible, get a few of the person’s friends/relatives together and figure out who is going to do what and when, so that you can week by week support the person without burning out yourself.
Finally, make sure you sre up to date with your own knowledge. Have a look round some of the following websites:
I hope this has helped you. If it has, please pass it on to others. If it allows people who are low or depressed to live a more empowered and loved life, I will be a happy woman.
Free Printables https://www.thedesignhippo.com/free-printable-positive-affirmations-to-tell-yourself-daily/?epik=dj0yJnU9YzY3RDFCVFpoWXYwckNhNS1vS1BXRXFXMnFXd2N1MVEmcD0wJm49WUFiemk4ek5MVl9TLUFGdTNMcVM5dyZ0PUFBQUFBR0FhaVA4