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Your life will have been impacted by depression, whether through personal experience or vicariously through someone else. It is pervasive and is no respecter of persons.  Descriptions of depression are numerous and varied, however, there are sentiments that resonate at the core of each experience. My emphasis in this blog is to focus on the role of the helpers/supporters of those who battle with this daunting experience. Our support of the sufferer can truly make all the difference.

I love this oft quoted meme regarding the wonderful friendships that exist with the animals of the ‘hundred acre wood’.

“One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is basically clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends. And they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they just love him anyway, and they never leave him behind or ask him to change”

What can I do to help?

We can begin by shifting our energy away from trying to fix, resolve, find solutions for, or rescue the individual from their experience.   

We must understand and acknowledge in our minds what we are and aren’t in control of.

For example; we cannot control the choices of the sufferer, nor their feelings, or thoughts. The depressed person isn’t a problem to be fixed. They are a person to be loved, supported, and accepted.

When we let go of the idea that we are directly responsible for ‘improving’ their mood or state of mind, we increase our capacity to support them more effectively. We are able to do this for longer periods because our ‘success’ isn’t contingent on whether or not we (or they) note an ‘improvement’ in their state.

Again, we are not responsible for resolving their depressive experience. However, the depth of our relationship may be enrichened by our unconditional acceptance of the person, and meeting them where they’re at. When we do this, there might be less resistance to our help because it is experienced as a more genuine outreach, than one driven by ‘guilt’, ‘obligation/duty’, and ‘necessity’, as a depressed mind may speculate as the true motivation of our intent.

Here are a few suggestions for providing effective support:

Collaborate with them (if possible)

  • Ask the individual what they think they need right now. They may not know, and that’s ok.
  • Ask if they want company when they’re feeling low, even if they don’t want to talk
  • Ask if they’d be comfortable with asking about basic needs re if they’ve eaten, slept, washed, or been outside recently.
  • Ask, “Would you like me to keep inviting you to things/plans, even if you decide that you’re not up for it? I don’t want you to feel excluded”.
  • Ask, “I know it can be hard for you to reach out sometimes, especially when you’re feeling low. Is it ok if I check in with you occasionally?
  • When they’re in a better headspace, consider going through things that have been historically helpful to them when they have been feeling particularly low, so that you’re both aware of what might help them get through the moment.


  • Let them know that no matter how they’re feeling about themselves, you still care about them and their wellbeing.
  • Remind them how valuable they are to you.
  • Remind them that you are here to talk if they’re struggling.

Refer for specific support

  • Remind them of crisis numbers that exist for people who are struggling with their mental health and to use them if they don’t feel that they can speak to someone they know personally
  • Encourage them to speak with a GP to discuss options for treatment e.g. referrals for support groups, individual therapeutic support, medication, etc.
  • Offer to be present with them when making a call to reach out to services.
  • Offer to wait with them whilst they’re waiting to be seen by a professional, or after they’ve finished, in case they wish to talk about it or simply have someone to sit with.


Practice your own self-care. When supporting anyone with any physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual challenge can be difficult, ensure that we are continuing to meet our own needs and wellbeing. We cannot help others if we ourselves are depleted/burnt out.

Focus on what is in our control

Much can be learnt from people who work in palliative care. They are wonderful examples of providing necessary support, during the most difficult of times. Interesting to note is that the service they provide isn’t to solve the condition they’re presented with. Their primary intent is to:

  • Alleviate suffering by helping patients manage pain and the symptoms of their illness
  • Help them experience as much autonomy as possible.
  • Identifying and addressing the various needs of the individual including; social, psychological, spiritual, as well as attending to physical needs
  • Help improve the ‘quality of life’ for both patient and those supporting them

The ‘success’ of their help isn’t based on the outcome being that the patient is ‘cured’, but experienced by the beautiful efforts in helping the person to manage the difficulty of their experience.

And so it is, that when our focus is on the things that matter to the person struggling, and helping them manage their challenges – we provide meaningful and compassionate care to those who need it.

David Sheppard MBACP Accredited, Therapist

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