I only took one thing away from my college speech class in 2011: Communication is situational. I replaced “communication” with “everything”.
Everything is situational.
This isn’t a cookie-cutter guide on how to help your loved who one has depression and you have literally no clue on how to deal with it, nor is it something you can solely rely on or blame if it comes up. I’m not at all responsible for how anyone interprets this; I’m merely sharing what I feel could have been different for me had things been different. It’s just my situation, and I’m not longer in middle school and running a Xanga advice site, giving out crappy advice like, “You shouldn’t kill yourself because ___.” I’m better at relationship advice.1
You don’t know, therefore do not judge.
Whether they’re hurting themselves or smiling one day and then crying the next — or even five minutes later — you don’t know what they’re truly feeling, so don’t judge them. Don’t tell them others have it worse or that “life goes on” or the risks of anything. Don’t get onto them or call them crazy. Don’t even allow yourself to assume what they’re feeling, because doing so can lead to you making other decisions for them and/or assuming more things that needn’t be assumed. If you want to know, ask. However, just because you ask doesn’t mean they’ll tell you.
Be prepared for the worst. Be prepared to hear the worst. Be prepared to see the worst. Just be prepared.
With that said, don’t shut them up when they start spilling out things that’s on their mind. “Get it out of the front of your mind” has been said to me so much this year that it’s all I imagine I’ll hear when I try to open up to someone else.
Don’t break their trust.
If they confide in you, they trust you. Think of yourself as a confidant — their confidant. Don’t tattle, don’t judge. Don’t run off and tell someone who is closer to them whether in distance or in relationship what they’ve just told you; if you do, they’ll likely never tell you anything ever again. They trusted you of all people! By running off and telling someone else, you’re doing exactly what they expected you’d do — you’re doing what they were afraid of.
Shortly after I opened up to an aunt, she called my grandmother who basically lectured me and told me to pray to God and ask him to take it away. All that did was make me feel as if it was my fault for not praying, etc., and I ended up hating myself even more. I even cut that night. I originally wasn’t going to, but I literally felt like I didn’t have anyone. Don’t be like that.
Get them help.
Find them a therapist to talk to, or have them look for one if they’re not reluctant. Tell them you’ll call once they find a therapist they like that fits both the budget and their insurance (if needed), and then call when they give you the therapist’s name and information.
I found a few therapists around March, but they were always far away. Then, I found some around June and July, but my phone anxiety didn’t match up with my anxiety about calling in for help and actually getting help. I could have received help sooner if people hadn’t told me that it was my responsibility to get myself set up into some help. How could I seriously be responsible for getting myself help when I literally didn’t care about myself at all? How could I have gotten help sooner when I spent all day and all night either crying, sleeping or thinking about ways I could kill myself?
Don’t ask them how long they think they’ll go through this. Time takes time, and fighting depression could, for all anyone knows, take one’s entire life to beat. They may never beat it! They may have good days, they may smile one second and then go mad the next; don’t judge them, don’t diagnose them with what you read on the Internet2, don’t be an asshat.
Be aware; educate yourself.
Rather than assuming “it will all blow over eventually”, don’t be ignorant. Look up things online about depression. Learn about it. PTSD the case instead? When I found The Redhead Riter, I finally felt like I was one tiny percent less alone. She’s got some pretty awesome posts on PTSD and depression.
Just be open-minded.
The best way is to take it by the day.