Today is world health day and the theme this year is depression. As someone who suffers from depression I find it really heartening to see so much discussion on social media encouraging people to talk about mental illness.

I have spent this week on crutches due to a silly accident, and the thought occurred to me that friends and family can be a crutch for those who are in mental distress. So what can you do to help someone is suffering?  Here are a few tips.

My own experience has taught me that talking can really help to alleviate the pain. One of the worst aspects of going through a bout of depression is feeling alone and detached from the world around you. So if you think somebody is depressed, reach out to them: send them a text, pick up the phone or call round to see them. Even a five minute interaction can help to brighten someone’s day. I’m lucky to have friends who have done this for me and whose love and support has helped me enormously. As recently as January, I had to take some time off work due to a bad bout of depression. During this period two work friends texted me every single day just to say hi – and to keep me up-to-date on work gossip! This kept my spirits up even when I was at a low ebb.

When depression hits, something as simple as leaving the house can seem impossible. So don’t judge your friend because they don’t want to go out, or if they constantly cancel social engagements. Instead of giving up on your friend, keep reaching out and try to offer your company in a non-scary way. For example, offer to pop round for a cup of tea or suggest a walk in the park. Little things like this can make a big difference and help to build up confidence.

The world becomes a daunting place for someone who is depressed. Someone offering a hand to hold to take those first baby steps back can really help. A few years ago, when my depression was at its worst, I had to go home to Cork to live with my family for a few months as I couldn’t cope on my own. My friends came and sat with me on the couch, and when I got a little bit better they took me out for tea and then brought me home again. It’s hard to overstate how much these little trips helped me on my road to recovery.

So that’s a few simple ways you can help somebody in your life who is suffering from depression. Or, if you are the person who is suffering, then I would encourage you to reach out to those who love you. Lean on people around you and you will find they want to help you through this.

Let’s keep talking about depression – it’s the best way to fight it.

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