Depression, Mental Illness

5 Ways to Support Someone During a Depressive Crisis

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Or, Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566

Watching a loved one go through a depressive episode is so scary. Not knowing what to do or how to help can make you feel helpless and guilty.

It can be really difficult to know what to do, especially when the person going through the crisis withdraws and isolates themselves. However, even when they do this, help and support is really needed. It is just really hard for them to ask for help, for so many reasons. They are worried about judgment or having their feelings minimized.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

When I am depressed, these are things that have been really helpful for me to feel heard and process my thoughts.

1. Listen More Than You Speak

If I am opening up, try to listen more than you speak. Understand that more often than not, we just want someone to hear us, not “fix” it, because it isn’t exactly fixable. Listen without passing judgment on my feelings. They are valid whether you can relate to them or not. And please, do not pretend to know how I am feeling.

Photo by Anna Shvets

2. Encourage Me To Talk

While my last point was about listening, you can only do that if I begin talking. This is where you do speak more. Ask me questions, and let me know you’re available to listen. Be genuinely interested in hearing what I have to say, not like you’re making yourself available out of obligation. If all else fails, just simply spending some time with me, giving me the opportunity to open up once I feel comfortable will help immensely and be very appreciated.

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova

3. Ask Me If I Am Safe

For many people suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts tend to pop up, especially during a depressive episode. I know it’s a touchy subject for a lot of people, and it can feel extremely awkward bringing it up, but if you ask me if I am safe can be extremely helpful and potentially life-saving. Suicidal thoughts can sometimes become obsessive. If I have to stop and think about if I am safe or not, it can help break the cycle of thoughts.

If your loved one does open up about having suicidal thoughts but says they are safe, believe them. One thing you can do is ask if they have a “Suicide Safety Plan”. Writing out one of these can really help you understand what will help them in a moment of crisis if you ever need to step in. It can also help them feel more confident in their ability to cope, should a suicidal thought start to consume them.

If they say they do not feel safe, it’s time to help them get more professional help.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman

4. Help Me Find My Trigger

Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in my depression that I forget what started it in the first place. So often, it is triggered by something small that will snowball into bigger and bigger problems leading to the mental breakdown. It can be hard to admit to ourselves or others that something so insignificant caused such a huge impact on us, but once we are able to identify it, we can begin to process it and heal.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

5. Set Boundaries

Whether you have a mental illness or not, your mental health is important too. Be honest if you are not able to be there to support me. I totally get how tough and emotionally draining it can be to help someone suffering from a depressive crisis. I would never expect you to help my mental health at the expense of your own. Only do what you can handle, I still appreciate your love and support, whether you can do all of the above or just a few minutes of listening.

Photo by MIXU

It can be very hard to know what to say or do when someone you love is suffering from depression. While everyone’s needs and how they will respond to things are different, these are things that have/would help me. I hope they can help you or your loved one as well!

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Or, Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566

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