How to Help Those with Depression Over the Holidays (or any day)

Over the past few weeks, I wrote about some of the struggles people with mental health deal with over the winter and holidays.

You might be wondering…How can I help? How can I make them feel more comfortable during this time of year?

Make them feel loved. Many people with depression feel alone on Christmas, especially if they’re single or recently lost someone. When they see happy couples together at Christmas, they feel as if they are missing something. So, whether you’re a friend or family member, give them some extra love to remind them they are not alone and they are loved.

How? It’s the simple things that count.

  • Stop by for a visit – “Ask them if you can stop by. You may be the only person they see all day and it could likely cheer them up to feel part of the holidays.”
  • Send them kind text messages – “Letting people know you’re thinking of them is a big help. Depression and anxiety are often isolating and lonely. Any kind word that lifts their spirits even for a moment is appreciated.”
  • Just be there for them – “Sit with them. Hug them. Bring Kleenex and tea. They may not be able to explain their feelings, but it helps not being alone.”
  • Get them out of the house – “Depression and anxiety can be isolating and lonely and friends may need your gentle encouragement to get out of the house. Keep it low key.”[1]
  • Find a way to cheer them up. Make them laugh. Have a two-person dance party. Take them to see Christmas lights. Remember their favourite things. Smother them with love. Bring them food. Surprise them. Do whatever you can to put a genuine smile on their face because they need it.

Be aware that they may be struggling more than normal. Check in with them time to time. Make sure they’re okay. Be mindful and sympathetic of their symptoms. Be patient with them.

Ask what you can do. Simply ask them what you can do to make their day a little better. If you ask them, it will take the pressure of asking for help off the individual. Many people with mental health issues are afraid to ask for help because they don’t want to be a burden. They may need help with stuff like doing Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, or want someone to spend the day with them or accompany them to an event. Unless they are someone who isn’t afraid to ask for help (like me), ask them what they need. They may be more willing to tell you if you offer.

Don’t tell them to snap out of it or anything along those lines. You might be tempted to say something along the lines of “’Everyone’s here. Can’t you just try to be happy for just an hour or two?”, “Lighten up a little!” “You should be happy…It’s Christmas!” I’ve heard it all. I hear it every year. You might mean well, but it doesn’t work. EVER. In fact, if you try to snap them out of it by saying those things, you might make it worse. If you don’t know what to say, just maybe don’t say anything at all. It’s totally okay. Chances are only very few people know the individual enough to know what helps and what doesn’t.

Instead, be understanding and accepting. Rather than telling them things that don’t help, try to accept that depression is there and it’s not going anywhere just because it’s Christmas. Look past the depression and just be happy to spend time with them. Offer to include them in activities. But understand and accept if they just want to stay in bed. Instead of just telling them to be happy, maybe, oh I don’t know, find a way to cheer them up (see #1).


References

[1] Contreras, M. (2016). 10 Gift Ideas for Your Loved One With Depression and Anxiety. The Mighty. Retrieved from https://themighty.com/2016/12/what-to-get-someone-with-anxiety-and-depression-for-the-holidays/

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