12 Ways To Be Kind To People With Depression
17 July 2019
Depression is a common illness worldwide, with more than 300 million people affected. In Malaysia, the prevalence of depression was estimated to be between 8 and 12%, and it’s a leading cause of disability.
How can we be kind and supportive to people with depression?
- Don’t stigmatise them – they’re not mad, psycho, violent or bad. They’re human beings like you and me (but with a psychological disorder), who are capable of being good, happy, and successful in life.
- Try to understand depression as much as possible. Recall the occasional periods of sadness and lack of motivation in your life. Amplify that ten times in frequency and intensity – that’s how it feels to have depression as an illness. When we understand, we’ll be able to care more effectively.
- Gently remind them to take medications and do whatever necessary to get well, e.g., engage in more activities, read about depression, eat healthy food, and go for clinic follow-ups.
- Spend time with and accompany them for their activities, e.g., exercise, a walk in the park, buying things from the market. Don’t just tell them to do it; invite them to do it with you and give plenty of encouragement with every slight progress.
- Offer practical support, e.g., cooking, cleaning the house, giving a lift to the clinic, settling the bills, taking care of children, collecting medicines, etc.
- Avoid giving advice compulsively, “Try this/that…don't do this/that…must do this/that…” Though with good intentions, you’ll probably make him/her feel more confused and helpless. Be a good listener; explore their concerns and empathise, before offering suggestions.
- Try not to be over-protective. They need to be trusted that they’re capable of doing things on their own with support. Sometimes we also need to be firm with them for their good, e.g., insisting that they should stop abusing drugs (e.g., cannabis), compliance with medications, clinic follow-ups, and daily exercise.
- Give them equal opportunity for employment when they’re well. Allow them to take leave just like any other illness when they need to take time off for clinic follow-ups.
- Be kind and supportive through non-verbal expressions: a friendly smile, a hug, offer tissue papers for crying, a pat on the shoulder as encouragement.
- Repeatedly assure them in words that you love, care, and respect them unconditionally. It’s not they don’t trust you; they actually don’t trust and probably hate themselves – depression has damaged their self-confidence and self-worth.
- Forgive them if they’re sometimes impatient, unreasonable, or even hostile. They’re sick and in pain; may sometimes behave like an injured scorpion that stings those who help them. The fact that they reveal their unpleasant side to you may mean that they trust you enough. Be grateful that you’re the ‘chosen one’ –willing to endure with compassion.
- When they’re not ready to be helped, empathetically leave them alone for the time being. I know that it’s helplessly painful ‘doing nothing.’ Bear in mind, most likely, they’re aware that you care, but they’re not ready to seek help yet. They need more time to accept the reality of depression; acceptance is a process, not an on-off switch. Be kind to them by being patient and not rejecting them.