Another common question I am asked by those who know someone who is struggling with depression or is suicidal - "What can I do to help them?"
The first and most important thing that you can do is encourage the person to get expert help, this is critical.
Sometimes however, the person doesn't want to get expert help and forcing them to do so may push them further away.
Watching a loved one go through an invisible illness is heart breaking, more so if they are a family member. They may feel helpless and hopeless, so will you.
Because each of us is very different, there is no single panacea that will work for everyone. Some people will accept a firm hand while this will alienate others or make things worse for them.
Often, our first reaction when we want to help someone is to offer suggestions - "Why don't you go and see this person?', or "I know this worked for such-and-such so why don't you try it?', or "Why don't you Google it?" Usually the unwell person has tried all of those things.
Then we might try a bit of tough love - "Why don't you just snap out of it?", or "Things get hard sometimes so you need to harden up?", or "When times get tough the tough get going!"
We might try the opposite of tough love - "Let me do that for you", or "You stay in your room and I will do everything for you", or "Of course I will buy you whatever you need to get you through."
A saying used in crisis intervention - 'If you don't know, ask.'
And that is my recommendation for you to do when you are trying to help someone who is going through depression or is suicidal, after you have encouraged them to get help of course. Ask them how they are feeling and what they are thinking.
Don't try and fix it, simply be there for them. Depression and suicidal thoughts produce feelings of isolation and loneliness so just being around is one of the best things that you can do to help them.
It is comforting knowing there is someone around us that is wanting to help at our pace.
Here are some other things that you may want to try;
- Get the person outside in the sun as much as possible - sunlight produces vitamin D.
- Smile as much as possible - looking serious and surly portrays feelings of anxiety and fear and may make the person think that they are bringing you down therefore they will feel worse.
- Don't force it - positive reinforcement and encouragement tends to work better.
- Talk more - humans are social creatures, we like to talk when others talk to us.
- Encourage healthy options - we know that a good diet and healthy living such as going for a walk is best for our wellbeing.
Let them know how important they are to you.
The greatest piece of advice I can offer is to look after yourself first. You are no good to anyone if you are broken! Just like emergency service workers ensure that they have everything that they need before helping others, so should you.
You need to have a solid platform to operate from before you can help others.