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    Nov 6, 2014

    The Do's And Don'ts Of Being There For A Loved One With Depression

    You love them and want to help, but it's hard to know how to do that. Here are some tips from people who've lived with depression.

    DO: Listen.

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    But reeeeeally listen. As in: Process what they're saying without thinking about how you'll respond. Listen because they need someone to hear them.

    DON'T: Tell them what they're doing wrong, or how to fix it.

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    Your instinct might be to offer solutions, which makes sense — you're trying to help. But even though that impulse comes from the best place, any evaluation of your friend's situation can sound off the mark at best and judgmental at worst. It could also add unnecessary pressure or responsibility on a person who's probably already feeling pretty overwhelmed.

    DO: Offer your no-strings-attached company, and a break from pretending to be happy.

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    Sometimes it's really enough to just be present — at their place or yours, with no expectations to do anything other than not-be-alone, together. If they need a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to squeeze, offer yours.

    DON'T: Take their depression personally.

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    It can be really tough to devote time to someone who might seem like they don't even want it, but the best thing you can do is understand that this low is not about you — and, in fact, the person struggling through it probably needs you more than ever.

    DO: Share your own experiences with depression.

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    But make sure it's about offering solace, and not about situating yourself as the expert in having it rough. There is a difference between saying "I know exactly how you feel," and, "I've also struggled with depression or anxiety/tried therapy or medication/needed help, so you aren't alone." Go with the latter.

    DON'T: Feel like you need to fill every silence.

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    And don't interpret their silence as evidence that they don't want you there. Conversation can seem like an insurmountable task for someone going through a low, but it doesn't mean they aren't comforted by your presence. So be present!

    DO: Cook for them.

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    Or bring over some takeout. You might do most of the eating, but it's something to do together, and one less thing they have to do for themselves.

    DO: Check off some items on their to-do lists.

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    Do a load of laundry, take out the garbage, help answer some emails in their growing inbox. In the worst lows, even getting out of bed can be a feat, so it's likely they'll appreciate a helping hand.

    DON'T: Pressure them to get out there and socialize.

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    This isn't just a bad mood that they can will themselves out of with a smile and a night out. Trust that.

    DO: Take them outdoors.

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    Suggest something simple like a walk around the block. Getting some fresh air can be at the very least a momentary relief, but only if they're receptive to it. If they're resistant to the idea, don't push it.

    DO: Bring over their favorite movies, or watch shows that make them laugh.

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    Escaping to their favorite alternate universes for a bit can be a great way to cope, and laughter goes a long way.

    DON'T: Assume they know they have your love and support. Tell them.

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    Let them know it's OK that they're going through this, and you aren't going anywhere.

    DO: Make a gesture to show that you're thinking of them, if you can't physically get there.

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    Write a handwritten letter, give them a call, or suggest a Skype date. Let them know that even if you can't physically be there for them, you're still *here* for them.

    DON'T: Question or challenge their perception of the situation; if they say they're depressed, they're depressed.

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    Again, the impulse to say there isn't anything really wrong, or that this is just a rough patch that will pass, is one that comes from a good place. But ignoring the (possibly uncomfortable) truth of the situation doesn't make it any less real, and can actually come across as dismissive of your loved one's painful experience. Take them at their word.

    DO: Offer to help them get professional help.

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    If they've expressed an interest in seeing a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist — or, if they haven't, but you feel that the help they need is beyond what you can give — offer to make that process as stress-free as possible. You could ask around for referrals, research online, check with their insurance plans, make an appointment, or offer to go with them — any bit helps.

    DO: Make sure you have your own support system.

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    Loving someone who struggles with depression is its own struggle, and can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. Take care of yourself, first and foremost, and surround yourself with your own friends or family to lean on, so that you're able to give the best support you can.

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