Guest blog: depression and how you can help

Do you know someone who suffers from depression? Every year, around one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue. That’s 4 out of 16 of your classmates. Looking in, it can be hard to understand, you can’t tell by looking at someone what they may be dealing with. Depression can be very easily misunderstood. The loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain is a reminder that we never really know what’s going on behind closed doors and sometimes, vulnerable people don’t always look vulnerable.

People tend to believe that success and wealth equal happiness and no pain, but what this has proved is, this is not always the case. The reality is, depression doesn’t care what you’re good at, it can affect anyone at any stage in their lives. If someone’s not okay, why don’t we actually ask and do something about it. ‘Are you okay’ is such a simple question, yet so neglected. Don’t underestimate someone’s mental health and spread a little more kindness more than necessary.

It can be difficult if you have a close friend or someone in your family who suffers from depression and you don’t know what to say/what not to say. From my personal experience and dealing with friends struggling, here’s what to say and what not to say.

  • ‘Cheer up’. This is the most commonly used expression, yet so simplistic. It’s like telling someone with a broken leg to walk half a mile. It’s not as easy as it may seem, or an overnight ‘fix’, neither is it a choice. Instead, make them laugh and surround them with as much positive energy as possible.
  • ‘Get over it’. You’d never tell someone fighting a physical illness to get over it, so why tell someone with depression? It doesn’t have an on and off switch where you can just decide to be happy one day and sad another. This may also make them feel invalidated. Instead, tell them how well they’re doing. Remind them recovery takes time, and to take each day as it comes.
  • ‘You don’t look depressed’. You never truly know what’s going on in someone’s life, some may be good at masking their depressed state and it’s easy to ‘fake happy’. There is no way to tell whether someone’s suffering externally, as you can’t see someone’s mental health. Instead, reach out and check they’re okay. Give them hugs, and let them know you’re there.
  • ‘It’s all in your head’. Reminding someone that the pain they’re feeling is ‘all in their head’ deceives the fact that it is a mental health issue and should be taken seriously. Instead, offer them an ear to listen, be patient and remind them they’re not alone with their feelings.
  • ‘A lot of people have it worse off than you’. People with depression realize this, and tend to feel guilty about living with it. They don’t need extra guilt or to feel more ashamed of their feelings. No matter how much more challenging someone else’s situation may be, it doesn’t change the fact they’re struggling. Instead, remind them its okay to feel how they’re feeling and reassure them their feelings are valid. Be a light and tell them the darkest hour always ends.
  • ‘Life’s too short to be depressed’. People who suffer realize life’s short and that were only on this earth once, but fighting through everyday may feel like eternity. Telling someone to just function like normal, isn’t going to fix their problems and inevitably makes matters worse. Instead, try your best to understand and remind them they are going to make it through.
  • ‘Don’t be lazy’. People who suffer sometimes tend to find it hard to stay motivated. Instead, give them a helping hand once in a while. Whether that be with work, cleaning the house. Ask them if there’s anything they can do to help, put yourself in their shoes and be aware of the reality of their struggle.

There’s always someone out there willing to listen, sometimes you just have to reach out and ask. You deserve help and understanding. You are deserving of light, I hope you never stop searching for it.

You can follow Holly on Instagram, under @_holly_richards