How to Help a Loved One

Especially, if they’re depressed or suffering from other mental illness.

The holidays can be an especially rough time of year. I know for many years, I would get a kind of seasonal depression that would come over me after Halloween and last until at least Christmas, and often until after St. Valentine’s Day. In my case, it was due to not being in a relationship, mostly, and having an unrealistic expectation about how my life should look. But, frankly, even for people who are otherwise happy, the holidays can be rough. I mean, they call it the “holiday blues” for a reason, right? So, what do you do if someone you know and love is suffering from season depression? Well, sometimes, listening is enough. Just being there and hearing them, without necessarily trying to fix it can actually be a big benefit. Also, if it seems like your loved one is having more than very short-term depression, it’s perfectly okay to suggest they need more help than you can provide. Unless you’re actually a mental health professional, you may not be all that qualified to actually help someone who’s seriously depressed. One of my favorite science-based websites, Quick and Dirty Tips has some suggestions for How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness. It’s really good and, yes, someone with depression is, in fact, suffering from mental illness. It’s possible that it’s seasonal and may pass, but, you know your loved one, and if it looks like something more than that, the linked podcast is worth a listen.

Also, if it seems like your loved one is more than a little depressed and may be suicidal, talk to them about it. And, no, talking to someone about whether or not they’re contemplating suicide will not make them more suicidal. That’s a myth, and a deadly one at that. (For more discussion about some of the more dangerous myths about suicide, again, take a look at this article on Quick and Dirty Tips.) And, if you think they already have a plan, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You could actually be saving their life.

Hopefully, that’s not something you’re struggling with this holiday season, but if it is, please, get help. The holidays can be really rough and depression is nothing to try and ignore.