During the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, many people start to feel the opposite of what they’re supposed to feel. Instead of feeling joy and happiness, too many instead find themselves depressed.
Depression touches everyone. Most people either know someone who struggles with depression, or they have their own struggle. This comes as no surprise considering that, according to NIHM, “major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States.” In fact, in 2020, an estimated 21.0 million adults — that’s 8.4% — in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode.
Depression has been a lifelong battle of mine, and those closest to me have struggled with what to do during my depressed times. Depression no longer has a choking grip on me, though. While still a struggle from time to time, I no longer feel as though I’m barely holding my head above water.
Helping those Who Are Depressed
Looking back, I realize the many kind acts and words from those closest to me helped me through my depression. They are tools I now use to help those who are struggling.
- Acknowledge feelings. This does not mean to necessarily agree, but it does mean to acknowledge the feelings are real. To say someone who is depressed should not feel a certain way and then proceed to present a case as to why that is true only makes a depressed person feel worse. Simply acknowledge the feelings exist whether or not they are accurate.
- Refrain from giving advice. The worse advice I received was anything close to “Just be positive” or “Just cheer up.” My response was always the same: “Don’t you think I would if I could?!” When a person is seriously depressed, no amount of advice is going to bring them out.
- Value the person and their ideas. To know my ideas and thoughts have value gives amazing encouragement. As with acknowledging feelings, this doesn’t necessarily mean agreement. It does mean, however, acknowledging a person’s value and ideas even if their reasoning makes little sense.
- Listen. Sometimes a depressed person just wants to vent. Being able to vent to someone who listens without judgment takes off some of the heaviness depression creates in a person’s mind.
- Confirm loyalty. The person closest to me for most of my life stated more than once, “I will not leave you.” Knowing that no matter how low I got I would not be alone made a tremendous difference in my outlook. At times I didn’t believe it, and I tried to convince him staying was a bad idea. But he held true to his word, and I believe this is one of the main reasons depression no longer controls my life.
There are so many reasons for depression, and those reasons do need addressed in order to be victorious over depression. Along the way, doing the above tells a depressed person he is not alone, that someone will listen and not dismiss his feelings, and that someone believes he has value. You can truly make a key difference in helping someone struggle through and find victory over depression. My life is a testimony to this fact.