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11 Counterintuitive Ways To Help Someone With Depression That Are Waaay Better Than A Phone Call

Photo: Unsplash: MMPR
How To Help A Friend Or Family Member With Serious Clinical Depression

Truth.

With suicide, depression and mental health awareness covered and discussed just about everywhere you look right now, it's completely understandable to feel terrified if you believe someone you love, whether they are a family member, boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, or a beloved co-worker, seems to be depressed.

And in our "happiness psychology" obsessed society, the impulsive need to try and "cheer" that person up is just as completely understandable, if not, unfortunately, misguided.

Your offers to be there to listen while they vent, to take them out for coffee, and give them the "kick in the pants they need" are loving, well-intentioned and kind. Believe me, the people you make those offers to appreciate it more than they know how to say. Or possibly, more than they have the energy and clarity to be able to express. At least, not right now.

RELATED: What It Feels Like To Have Anxiety And Depression At The Same Time

Because here's the truth that's just as frustrating for them as it is for you.

Venting isn't what they need. Not really.

When someone is facing mental health issues like depression — not feeling sad, not temporarily bummed out, and not having a bad week, but clinically depressed — the most mundane tasks can feel insurmountable.

And this isn't because the person in question is lazy, or negative, or a Debbie Downer.

It isn't what they need because depression is caused by a chemical imbalance that may or may not be able to be effectively managed by medications, therapy and other treatment methods (and only if the person in question has the financial and other means necessary to access such help).

Yes, you should reach out to that friend — 100%.

But if what you authentically want it to help them, not only to alleviate your own anxiety about them, it's important that you do so in ways that will help rather than cause further damage.

To that end, here are 11 boring, perhaps even counterintuitive ways you can reach out when someone you love is depressed that will help them out way more than offering "to talk."

1. Help with their dishes.

Or the laundry.

Or folding and hanging up clothes.

No, this isn't enabling their "laziness." It is offering valuable help to someone who is deeply in need of it.

2. Play with their kids (if they have them).

Take the kids out to do something fun.

Or sit with the kids in the next room and stare at a wall. 

3. Sit next to them and play with their hair while cry.

Or while they sleep.

Or while they stare at a wall or play Candy Crush.

4. Send them funny memes.

Or videos.

Or articles.

You get the idea. They're depressed, but they still love to laugh.

5. Come over while they shower.

And that's it. Not to watch them or anything weird like that. Just so they will be simultaneously held accountable and supported while they do it.

Then, once they are done, just leave. That's it.

Yes, really.

RELATED: 15 Memes That Completely Nail What Dealing With Depression Feels Like

6. Interact with them on social media.

Most people have heard about the negative effects of social media, such as feelings of isolation and "negative self-comparison."

What fewer people know, however, is that research also shows that "actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being."

One study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University "found that people who sent or received more messages, comments and Timeline posts reported improvements in social support, depression and loneliness. The positive effects were even stronger when people talked with their close friends online. Simply broadcasting status updates wasn't enough; people had to interact one-on-one with others in their network. Other peer-reviewed longitudinal research and experiments have found similar positive benefits between well-being and active engagement on Facebook."

7. Let them know it's 100% OK if they only want to text.

The battle of the callers vs. the texters is quite real, and at the end of the day, it is a war that can have no winners.

8. Send them new music to listen to.

Not uplifting music only, and not music you think they "should" hear, but music that you cannot stop listening to and think they may totally dig too. Just because it's cool and you're cool and you think your friend is cool and you wanted them to know.

9. Allow them to "sound negative."

More often than not, when a depressed friend opens up and begins sharing their honest feelings, the friend who is not depressed feels a deep need to "make things better" by "helping" the depressed friend "focus on the positive."

Yes, that was a lot of quotation marks for a sentence with no citations, but they are for good reason, which is to highlight the fact that the non-depressed friend is trying to do what they believe they are "supposed to do" — i.e., what popular self-help culture has said we should do — rather than what it is their depressed friend truly needs.

When you offer to be someone's space to share and they take you up on it, be exactly that — a safe space to share. That means your friend talks and you listen. That's all. No judgments. No solutions. No helpful thoughts. No questions about why they have or haven't done or tried so-and-so or such-and-such. No Pinterest-friendly motivational quotes, stories explaining why you get it, or reinterpreting the situation to explain why it really "isn't as bad as it seems."

Doing those things may make you feel better, because they make you feel as though you have been of service, but that's only being of service to yourself, and not at all related to what your friend needs or wants.

10. Tell them when you think about them.

Tell them when something reminds you of them.

Tell them when you're worried about them.

Tell them when you miss them.

Tell them when they somehow cross your mind.

And that's it.

11. Invite them out — again.

No matter how many times they flake, reschedule or ask for a rain check.

You never know when they'll finally be ready, and when they are, they need to know you aren't angry and there's nothing to forgive.

RELATED: What It Feels Like Being A Woman Trapped In A Brain With PTSD

Senior Editor and happily-former divorce coach/mediator Arianna Jeret is a recognized expert on love and relationships (except when it comes to her own life, of course) who has been featured in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Style, Fox News, Bustle, Parents and more. Join her Sundays at 10:15 PM EST when she answers questions on Facebook Live on YourTango. For more, follow her on Twitter (@ariannajeret) and Instagram (@ariannajer).

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