Looking after someone with depression.


Chloe Faulkner

28 August 2019 2 comments
Photo by Engin Akyurt.

How to look after someone with depression (according to Matt Haig).

I was browsing in my local library looking for one of the books from my to-read list (‘Of Mice and Men‘) and instead stumbled upon Matt Haig’s bestselling novel ‘ Reasons to stay alive‘. I’ve been toying with the idea of reading this book mostly because I find memoirs of mental illnesses to be like reading a textbook of symptoms for which I think I tick all the boxes. In other words, I find them all too familiar and who wants to read about the familiar? But I picked it up anyway.

Here’s the thing: I finished it in just under two days (not hard, it’s a small book) and have even noted some key or interesting information that I hadn’t thought of before.

Like the fact that serotonin decline in the brain is no longer considered the be-all and end-all of why depression happens. Experts aren’t actually certain why it happens – there are many thoughts and theories but no certainty. If you’re interested in reading more about this you can have a look here at an article from Psych Central. They have references included so you can work your way back if needs be. (I’m not saying this is true I just found it interesting and in line with the medication movement argument). 

Anyway, I digress. Another chapter which I took note on was ‘How to be there for someone with depression and anxiety’ (page 120). I mostly kept this for Ryan but I also realise that many people are caring for loved ones with depression, or depressive mental health issues. Not even that but many people go through it themselves and might want to outwardly explain these 10 things to someone they love. Either way, I found them both true and beautiful.

How to be there for someone with depression and anxiety;

  1. Know that you are needed, and appreciated, even if it seems you’re not.
  2. Listen to them. Even if they aren’t making much sense or saying anything, they still might still want you there to listen. 
  3. Never say ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘cheer up‘ unless you’re also going to provide detailed, foolproof instructions. (Tough love doesn’t work. Turns out that just good old ‘love’ is enough.)
  4. Appreciate that it is an illness. Things will be said that aren’t meant.
  5. Educate yourself. Understand, above all, that what might seem easy to you – going to a shop, for instance – might be an impossible challenge for a depressive. 
  6. Don’t take anything personally, any more than you would take someone suffering with the flu or chronic fatigue syndrome or arthritis personally. None of this is your fault.
  7. Be patient. Understand it isn’t going to be easy. Depression ebbs and flows and moves up and down. It doesn’t stay still. Do not take one happy/bad moment as proof of recovery/ relapse. Play the long game.
  8. Meet them where they are. Ask what you can do. The main thing you can do is just be there.
  9. Relieve any work/life pressure that is doable.
  10. Where possible, don’t make the depressive feel weirder than they already feel. Three days on the sofa? Haven’t opened the curtains? Crying over difficult decisions like which pair of socks to wear? So what. No biggie. There is no standard normal. Normal is subjective. There are seven billion versions of normal on this planet.

I do highly recommend this book even for a short time filler if nothing else. Matt Haig has quite a few titles which discuss mental health within them, even children’s books if I’m not mistaken, so if you want to pick any of them up I would highly recommend it. I fully intend to read ‘Notes on a nervous planet‘ before the year is out, and have since read How To Stop Time.

Do you have any more tips for dealing with depression in others that Matt hasn’t mentioned?

  • Well being
  • ##books
  • ,
  • #depression
  • ,
  • #Matt Haig
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  • #Mental Health
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  • #mental illness

2 thoughts on “Looking after someone with depression.

  1. Gayleen says:

    really want to read his books, thank you!

  2. Caterina says:

    It’s important to look after your mental health but also important to look out for others. This article outlines that perfectly.

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