It’s hard for someone going through depression to open up to people. There’s a fear of being judged, a fear of being a nuisance–so many reasons to make it feel better to just go at it alone.
So when someone does open up to you, know that it took a great deal of courage for them to do so, and understand that if you really want to help them, the best thing for you to do is listen to them (and eventually sway them towards getting professional help, but before you can do that, you have to gain their trust by listening).
Don’t talk over them. Don’t interrupt them with advice the probably already know or stories of your own. Don’t make it about you.
Don’t try to guilt them into feeling better with hollow words like ‘snap out of it’ or ‘do it for __’ because you’re probably just making it worse. Just listen. To their words. To their silence.
Don’t pressure them into telling you what’s wrong. Sometimes, it helps to feed them or offer them a warm blanket and a space on the couch for a few hours. Sometimes, just a random hug can help. Your stories about nothing and anything can help too, but only if they ask.
Most of the time, that friend or relative going through depression will not open up. Depression is stealthy and insidious. Every day is a struggle to want to stay alive. Every act of compassion and kindness helps. Every instance of comfort can move the depressed person away from the call of the darkness and towards the light.
If you’ve never been mentally ill, you’re lucky, and depression is probably puzzling to you. If you want to comfort someone, don’t push your worldview on them. You can’t understand what you haven’t experienced. Just be there for them, believe them, and support them. You have no idea how much those gestures matter.
If you’re going through depression, please know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a disease, and it’s not your fault. You don’t get a mental illness because you’re weak, you get it because of different things, like circumstance or genetics. But why you have it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know that you can get better. It won’t be easy, and it may come back, but that also means it can go away again.
If you don’t feel like you can talk to a friend or a professional just yet, please consider talking to someone anonymous.
The Department of Health, together with the World Health Organization, and Natasha Goulbourn Foundation launched a suicide prevention hotline called Hopeline that may be reached at (02) 804-4673; 0917-5584673; and 2919 for Globe and TM subscribers.