Content warning for mention of suicide
Click the spoiler tag to read the post. I don't talk about suicide in any depth, but I do mention it in the broader context of depression and little things individuals can do to help people who are depressed.
I also want to mention that we all have shit to grapple with; these are just things I wanted to mention that could be good to do if you can do them. I'm not in any way advocating giving more of yourself than you want and/or are able to give; once it starts to take a toll on you, it's not a little thing for you anymore, either.
Depression and suicide are complex, multifaceted health issues that require complex, multifaceted approaches to address. There isn’t an easy fix for the broader societal problems that enable and exacerbate this public health crisis. That's why I’m not going to talk about the broader societal problem today - though I do recommend that everyone seek out people who are talking about long-term ways to help people who struggle with depression and other mental illnesses.
Instead, I’m going to talk about two little things for people who are not depressed to start to help people they know who are grappling with depression.
Reach out to people you care about who have a history of depression or who have expressed feeling intensely stressed, hopeless, or something along those lines.
Tell them that you’re thinking of them. Tell that you like them. Tell them why you like them.
Do it in a sentence. Do it in a few sentences. Do it in a paragraph. What’s a good memory that you have? Did they ever do something that really helped you or someone else? Is there something about them that you really admire that ISN’T about how strong they are in facing adversity? (Seriously, please don’t say this.)
Whatever you say and however long it is, make sure this is centered entirely on them and contains absolutely no pressure. For example, rather than write, “Let’s get together soon!” you might write “Whenever you have the time/energy (no rush), I’d love to come take you out for coffee!” Ideally, you should also mention that you don’t need any answer or acknowledgement right now, because otherwise, guilt about not responding could *also* start to weigh down on them.
This will not magically make them not-depressed. What it could do is help them get through the particularly awful moments and make them feel more comfortable reaching out when they do have the energy.
Help with the small, simple things.
Depression saps a person of their energy, and it makes even theoretically minor things seem like huge hurdles. People who are depressed will no do things they really need to do for days or weeks or even months. After awhile, the anxiety and shame over not doing that really simple thing starts to spiral in on itself, and that makes it even harder to do it (and also everything else).
It can be really, really helpful to have someone proactively reach out and offer to do one of those small, simple things.
That could be dropping that bill in the mail. It could be calling a refill into the pharmacy. It could be checking their voicemail and summarizing it. It could be changing the light bulb in their reading lamp. It could be requesting their absentee ballot.
There are a dozen little things that are way too easy to be so hard and occupy way too bandwidth for how much time they should take, and taking one or two of them off someone’s hands can help so much more than you realize. There are people who have done some of those things for me, and there are no words for how much I’ve appreciated it - or how helpful I've found it.
Again: neither of these will make the people you care about not-depressed. There is no magic treatment for depression. However, things like this *can* give people who are struggling with depression the tools to get through the hardest moments and find the energy to do one or two extra things a couple days a week, and that really, really matters.