Depression is more than just feeling “down.” It is a serious illness caused by changes in brain chemistry. Research tells us that other factors contribute to the onset of depression, including genetics, changes in hormone levels, certain medical conditions, stress, grief, a pandemic, or difficult circumstances in our lives.
Many Faces of Depression
Many people are surprised by those that are experiencing depression. They are smart, have a good job, great partner, or family unit, are part of a community, and have all kinds of positives in their lives. They “seem fine.” Just because a person doesn’t look depressed, doesn’t mean they are not deeply affected by it. People experiencing depression can be quite skilled at wearing a mask and acting as though everything is good in their world.
Depression and Isolation
Depression and isolation are best friends, and it’s not a healthy relationship. Most of their time is spent together, often to the total exclusion of others. They hate it when other influences interfere with their relationship. Isolation serves depression, and depression thrives with isolation. Theirs is a powerful, mutually reinforcing bond. Therefore, the best way to help depression is to reduce isolation and increase connection to others.
The stigma, shame, and silence around depression is huge. Myths and misunderstanding further enforce the silence. By getting to know the realities of depression, we can better help and support those who are experiencing it. Becoming educated about depression demonstrates to those that are suffering that we care.
How to best help a friend or loved one:
Being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You don’t have to try to “fix” the person; you just have to be a good listener. Often, the simple act of talking to someone face to face can be an enormous help to someone suffering from depression. Encourage the depressed person to talk about their feelings and be willing to listen without judgement. Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Phrases that are helpful:
- You are not alone, I’m here for you.
- I may not understand how you feel right now, but I care and want to help.
- You are important to me.
- Is there anything I can help with?
Phrases that are not helpful:
- It’s all in your head.
- We all go through this sometimes.
- Cheer up, look on the bright side.
- Go for a walk.
- Have you tried to meditate?
- Aren’t you feeling better yet?
Connection and Openness are the key:
Walking alongside someone who is dealing with depression can be frustrating. Depression wants to be with isolation, so it is common for those affected to pull away. However, as someone who wants to help, you have to keep showing up. Sometimes all it takes is being present for your friend or loved one on a consistent basis. That in itself is the proof that you care and are in it for the long haul. Only by opening up a dialogue and building connections can one overcome the destructive dynamics of depression and isolation.
If you or a loved one is suffering with depression, please reach out.