1. It is a disease
Just like any other physical disease, mental illness is an actual illness. Just because you can’t physically see it on someone’s body, or read it clearly on a medical report, doesn’t mean it’s not there. (Technically, you can on a brain scan, but no one usually needs to go to that length to be diagnosed). That’s one of the hardest things for those who suffer, even the best outfit, perfect face, and a shining resume can hide a hurting individual. Just try to remember that depression is so real to those who feel it. Even if you don’t understand, attempt to sympathize with the reality of mental illness.
2. There’s no cure
Though depression is different than a lot of diseases in that it can never fully be cured. People who have relapsed over and over understand this and know it is completely and unfortunately true. It’s one of those illnesses that can be alleviated but can never fully go away. Individuals may go to therapy, get prescribed medication, or find other ways to cope with their illness, but it will always be there. Certainly things will get better, but the pain and hurt will never fully go away and can be triggered by numerous things depending on the individual. Even what seems like the smallest things can send someone with a history of depression straight back into a black hole.
3. Healing takes time
It’s crucial to keep in mind is that depression can take years for someone to even begin to feel better. That is not an exaggeration, and I know because I have seen it firsthand. It can literally take years for someone to get out of the feeling that they’re in a black hole and it doesn’t help when they’re given up on. People with depression can’t just “get over it.” It takes longer for some people.
4. Depression doesn’t discriminate
This disease does not discriminate in any way. It can affect anyone at all, and it does. That means any gender, age, race, social status, salary, etc., anyone at all can be affected. Though some categories may have higher reports of depression, correlation does not mean causation! No one person is at more risk than another. Remember this when you assume someone is fine just because they’re specific demographic.
5. Believe them
No matter what you think about mental illness in general, you need to believe someone if they decide to share their dark feelings with you. For the love of God please let them know you believe them. Validate their every word. Let them know that you know they’re telling the truth. Let them know you’re there. They 100% already feel lonely and making them feel like they’re lying to you and treating them exactly how they were afraid, will do more damage than you know. Believe them, and tell them that you do.
6. Do not ask about their scars
If, God forbid, they have any. Unless you’re ready to be there for them, and I mean really be there for them. The most embarrassing, awkward and uncomfortable situation is when a random person you barely know asks about scars when they know damn well what they are. That moment is incredibly tough. So please, don’t ask unless you really care.
7. You can ask for help, too
It’s also really important to know that you’re not expected to help them all on your own. Most likely you’re not a psychiatrist. And nobody is expecting you to fully take on the responsibility to solve this problem. What you are responsible for is reading any and all signs and getting your friend professional help. At first, refer them to a counselor, therapist, whatever. And don’t just suggest it, take it upon yourself to research a phone number or address in your area to really help them. Ask them if they want you to be there when you call. Odds are they’re unmotivated and afraid to do so themselves. Actually make the effort, and be there for them. But know that this isn’t all on you, and it definitely isn’t your fault.
8. Be patient
Lastly, with every inch of your being, be patient with them. Nobody wants to have friends with depression, but the reality is that you’ll face it at some point if you haven’t already. I know it can be frustrating loving or caring for someone with depression. But you have to understand that probably nothing you say or do will fix them. But it will certainly help them. I’m not saying this so you feel discouraged, but so you know the truth. I’m also not saying it so decide not to help anymore. I’m saying it so you can keep trying and not give up on them because you’re relying on that instant gratification of a brand new person. Even if they don’t admit it you’re helping, what you say does matter, even if it doesn’t feel like it. So even if you’re sick and tired of saying the same positive things to them every day, week, or year, keep going. They might not tell you but they need you. You’re one of the few people they have confided in and they need you to be strong for them when they can’t be strong enough for themselves.