Previously I wrote about the most important thing I’ve learned from my experience of depression. Today I am going to offer 4 useful suggestions on how to help those who struggle with depression. First, I need to be clear that I am not a counsellor or a psychologist. Instead I just want to offer ideas of things I have found helpful as a pastor and a sufferer of depression.
1. Be There.
This is one of the simplest but often the most powerful gifts we can give to someone struggling with depression. People who are suffering need to know they are not alone. Depression is often lonely. Your presence goes a long way to relieve this burden. It doesn’t mean you are constantly there but you are when it counts. Even though it may be lonely at times, suffers often need space for themselves, and feeling too ‘crowded’ is often just as damaging as loneliness. So pick your moments about when to be present but equally also always be supporting.
2. Be Quiet
It’s hard not to give advice or solutions, but most often what is most needed is to listen. Sometimes we need to learn when to shut up. This is never an easy thing to do. When we care for someone we want to feel like we are helping them. We get uncomfortable and we feel the need to talk. I know how difficult this is. We try to be positive but so often it comes across as superficial or trite. Trust me, this is not helpful. It’s not to say we don’t ever speak, but we need to learn to listen first. After all, many times the sufferer just needs to get something off their chest.
3. Learn to Pray.
If we need a motivation to listen then the answer is prayer. As Christian carers we have the privilege of helping people bring their concerns to God. The important word is help. Sometimes this may be with the person, sometimes not, but it is always on their behalf. Sometimes people with depression fail to see that God hears their prayers. When we pray we are bearing their prayer to God in a way they feel they are incapable of. By learning to listen we discover what we can be praying. So, be slow to speak but be quick to pray.
4. Look for the Practical.
Depression is so often debilitating. Some people find even the easiest tasks difficult. See if there is anything that can be done to relieve some of the burden. It doesn’t really matter what it is but do something. Be creative. Go watch a game of football together. Go out for coffee. Cook a dinner. All of these things may help to ease the weight people carry. And they show in a really tangible way that you care.