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What do you say when someone you love is depressed?

Updated on January 19, 2014

I’m bringing this up because I talk about traveling and jobs and money, but I don’t know if I emphasize just how hard that can be sometimes. It’s hard for me when I’m trying to find a way to make it all happen, and it’s even harder for other people.

The other day I sat on the couch next to the guy I’m seeing and ran my hand over his back. He had his head in his arms, and he just wouldn’t move. Because sometimes it gets so hard that it actually feels a little like you’re losing your mind. Everything is going wrong, and there’s no real solution in some situations. There’s no way to make things right. And that would be enough to depress anyone.

Some people are more susceptible than others, though, and they’re hit the hardest. My brother was one of them, and he took his life when I was a teenager. My ex-boyfriend was another, falling into a downward spiral after his father died. I wasn’t able to help my brother. I saw the warning signs but didn’t understand what they meant until it was too late. I tried to help my ex-boyfriend, but I forced myself to leave when he started dragging me down with him. And now here I am, sitting on the edge of a broken futon with a guy who’s so clinically depressed he’s on two types of antidepressants, which he can no longer afford, and thus hasn’t been taking.

And you’d think, with my previous experience with these things, that I could handle the situation better. But I can’t. The problems that he talks about don’t have solutions. They’re just tough realities. So I just sit there rubbing his back and trying to tell him it will be okay when, to him, it won’t.

So what do you say when someone you care about it depressed? What do you say when there really isn’t an answer to their problem, or a way to make it go away? It may seem easy to just say you’re there for them, or that things will be okay. But those words are kind of hollow. They don’t help, and they don’t make anyone feel better. And for those who’ve been in the situation, you know that when someone is really depressed sitting next to them and running your hand over their back doesn’t actually do anything to help. Some people can be so far gone that it doesn’t matter if you’re there or not, either way they don’t really see you.

So, as my least helpful post ever, I’m just going to ask. Does anyone have any suggestions? I seem to attract these people in my life, and I want to help them. I understand it’s not my fault, or my responsibility to fix things for them. But I want to help, and I’ve never quite been able to figure out how.


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    • OnBlackGlass profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from United States

      Thank you. I didn't realize how prevalent depression is and how much it affects people until I was a teenager. Now I've run into it again and again with people I'd never expect. It's a hard thing to deal with, and it's hard for anyone watching, too, but there really is no right way to help. Being around and being accessible really is about all you can do.

    • lisavanvorst profile image

      Lisa VanVorst 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Well written article. I can say that telling them things will get better is just a saying. After all when someone is that depressed, how do we know things will get better. All a person can say to someone who's life seems to be crumbling is "I'm here for you". Depression affects each of us in so many ways. I have written articles and poems about depression from my only personal experience of being unemployed for 18 months. Family support and family being optimistic does have a positive affect on someone who's depressed. Until things get better in that individual's life you as the observer can only be there. I look forward to reading more of your articles.


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