As someone who has struggled with clinically-diagnosed, reoccurring depression since 2013, the topic of depression always comes up when I share my testimony. Once I was asked “my close friend struggles with depression. How can I best encourage this person?” My answer…
- Listen and be patient. The process of battling depression can be a long, bumpy road filled with both victories and setbacks. When your loved one has bad days, don’t let your discouragement show. Instead consistently remind them of the truth and recommit to fighting the battle with them.
- Don’t grow weary of hearing the same negative things from your friend over and over again. Your friend who is struggling with depression will probably rehash the same feelings and thoughts every time he or she is feeling depressed. Again, be consistent and fight that negativity with love.
- Don’t judge your friend for their behaviors. As one of my Pastors once advised me, you have no idea how you would react if you were placed in that person’s shoes and if the devil was tempting and manipulating you in the same way.
- Be careful not to perpetuate the negative stigma surrounding depression medication that prevents a lot of people from getting help.
- Know what local resources are available. Sometimes the most effective people to minister to people struggling with depression are others who also suffer from depression.
- If you are not a psychologist or a doctor, I would not use the word “depression” to diagnose your friend. If you tell your friend that you think they are depressed, then that diagnosis can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
- Don’t try to battle your friend’s negative thoughts with logic. Depression is a sickness of the mind and the person suffering from depression is probably living in their own reality. Instead of logic-ing it out, try getting your friend out to do something such as working out or helping with a service project. Sometimes a simple change of scenery goes a long way to shift their focus from their own circumstances onto something positive.
- Take their words very seriously. If they say they have thoughts or plans to hurt themselves or others, escort them to receive immediate medical attention.
- Pray for them. Do not underestimate the power of prayer to heal not only the body but the mind (James 5:14-15). Also, encourage your friend to seek counsel from the elders or pastors at their church. Meeting regularly with a trained counselor can be a wonderful step towards recovery. I highly recommend counseling first and then counseling paired with medication, if necessary, after consulting a physician.
- Make sure you are taking care of yourself and being refreshed through the Word and fellowship with other believers. If someone very close to you is suffering from depression, it can be very draining on you. If you are not being filled by the love of Christ, you will eventually run out of love to give.
- Remind them, regularly, that they are loved by you and by our Heavenly Father! Because Jesus paid the price for our sins through his death on a cross, we can look forward to a New Creation where there will be no more sadness and despair:
“Then I [John] saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'” Revelation 21:1-4
Important Note: I am not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist. These words of advice are simply based on my experiences and what counsel proved the most effective for me in combating my depression.