This series aims to promote awareness of the nature and reality of depression, encourage those who are battling depression, and equip those who want to help someone who is struggling. This post is part 6 in the series. Stay tuned for a new post each week, and find the rest of the series here.
Several years ago, a friend of mine—I’ll call her Susan—sat in my office with three other friends surrounding her as she wept. Susan had been struggling with depression and had been on medication for several years. She was seeing a counselor and doing her best to fight the battle. That particular morning, Susan had just dropped her kids off at the preschool that met at the church where I worked. When she got back in her car, she texted one of the ladies who later sat with her in my office, with a message that she was planning to go home and take a handful of sleeping pills. This friend immediately alerted me, and we met Susan in the church parking lot and brought her into my office.
For the first few moments, we just sat with her while she cried and told us how tired of life she was. We listened, laid hands on her, prayed over her, and showered her with love and words of affirmation. After she had reached a state of relative calm, we called both her doctor and her counselor. Susan admitted herself voluntarily to a local psychiatric facility, where she would spend the next several weeks.
Those next few weeks were very hard for Susan. She was embarrassed and mortified. When I would go to visit her, she said things like, “I can’t believe I’m here,” and, “I hate this place.” But deep inside we both knew this was exactly where she needed to be. The facility offered daily individual and group therapy, consultations with doctors, and a safe environment.
I’m thrilled to report that, although her battle with depression is not over, Susan is alive today. She still struggles, but she has not given up. She cares for her children, goes to work, and is involved in her church. The story of her life continues. I am thankful that she reached out that day and did not return home to carry out her plan to end her life.
Susan has consented to allow me to share her story in hopes that it will help others who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. I am thankful to her for being willing to allow me to include this, her darkest moment, in my book and in this series. I believe that her story is far too common and one that doesn’t always end in victory. I’m hopeful that anyone contemplating suicide will benefit from Susan’s story.
How do we reach out to someone close to us who is struggling with depression? Do we rush to the scene and intervene immediately, possibly smothering them and causing them to push us away? Do we give them space, hoping they come out of it on their own? Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. People will respond differently to various methods of intervention.
People battling depression need loving words, emotional support, encouragement, and presence. While medicine and counseling are often vital in winning the battle against depression, these ingredients alone are not enough; and most people aren’t equipped to help someone medically or professionally.
However, you can play a unique, vital role that doctors and counselors cannot. You are positioned in their life in such a way that you can pour yourself out as a positive voice in their life. There are countless ways to do this. Here are just a few ideas:
Take dinner to their house one night and eat with them
Invite them over for a movie or game night
Write down some prayers for them—pass these on to them later
Make a list of qualities you admire about them and share it with them
Mail them a surprise gift
Tell them that you love them—and why you love them
Reminisce with them about shared memories
Plan an outing together for one of their favorite activities
Remind them often how special they are to you
Make them laugh (this does more than you know!)
Text/call them on a regular basis
Whatever means you use, find ways to be that positive voice. People battling depression are bombarded with negative voices—often from within themselves. Make it a priority to counter those voices in their lives and replace them with positive ones. Do whatever it takes to be such a voice in their world. You may be the only positive voice they hear, but your efforts will bear fruit worth more than you know.
It takes emotional energy to do this well, so be vigilant and diligent as you invest yourself in them. Your role could bring them much-needed comfort, lift their spirits, dispel the darkness, and give them hope to carry on—possibly even save their life. Never underestimate the power your words and actions can have.
People battling depression have stumbled and fallen into a ditch. They feel trapped and unable to make the ascent back to solid ground. Most people pass by the ditch without even noticing. Others notice but do nothing. Some well-meaning acquaintances and friends stand at the edge of the ditch, peer down, and ask “How can I help?” or offer, “Let me know if you need anything.” And they stand there, waiting for a response that never comes.
What people battling depression need is someone to get down in the ditch with them.
They need a friend who will join them in the dark depths; a friend who is willing to get dirty and who will help them climb to level ground again. Are you willing to be this friend to someone? Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and invest the time, energy, and care it will take to see them through? It could make all the difference.
In the next post, I will explore doubt and faith as they relate to depression.
This material is taken from my book Rethinking Depression (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016).