When folx around you are feeling depressed, what can you do to help?

May 15, 2022

Early in December 2021, heyy, hosted an IG Live session with thecopingcentral

Ms. Utkarsha Jagga, and heyy,’s Founder Ankit Malhotra spoke at length about depression, its symptoms and what loved ones and caregivers can do to make things better for those suffering with depression. 

We put it together for you to read through. You can also view the video recording here

Signs of depression 

Utkarsha said that there is often a preimposed and certain technical diagnosis given regarding the criteria for depression. Yet the easiest way to recognise if someone around you, or a loved one is suffering from it, would be through their behaviour. 

Factors such as behaviour, socializing habits, sleep schedules and mood are the more noticeable signs to watch out for. If their mood is something that is impacted and you notice drastic changes in all the above areas, it can be taken as a warning sign. At the same time, these factors can also differ based on the individual and the context in which they are in; which is also something to take into account.

How to broach the topic of depression with those who are depressed?

Depression is not just an emotional characteristic. It very clearly affects a person’s physiological changes, such as eating habits, sleep schedules and more. And yes, the signs are clearly different from their normal functioning, something which can very obviously be seen during their work. At work depression could be manifested as people who were taking longer than usual for their chores, showing up late, leaving early, coming into work despite being unwell and such.  

It can be daunting trying to approach someone experiencing such a situation, but Utkarsha advised a nice and slow approach. 

The first thing anyone can do is point out to the person that you have noticed they are going through these changes in their behaviour. Majority of the time, people who are going through depression feel alone, and think their changes in behaviour go unnoticed by the people around them. 

 A simple “Hi, what’s up with you?” goes a long way, and tells them that you acknowledge their presence and have indeed noticed a change. This will lead to them thinking “Somebody cares enough to notice me”, and really that’s all you need. Whether it’s the slightest change, or the biggest- you noticing and bringing it to their attention makes a big difference. 

It is true that acknowledgement is one of the least utilized ways, since it often feels like you’re intruding in someone’s space. But, it does have its comforts because that thought where you know somebody is finally looking at you, and you don’t feel alone makes it all the better. That may be the first step, and Ankit wanted to know how to go on from there. There are instances where taking the conversation forth can be tricky and often cynical, but there are some practical ways to tackle it.

Conversation starters and continuers

This isn’t small talk. It’s a little tougher than that and the first thing you can ask them is, how do they want to be helped? Putting the ball in their court, gives them that agency to choose what they want and think would be best for them, instead of haphazardly deciding for them. Allowing them to take the reins on their narrative allows them to establish a sense of control which is extremely beneficial in the process of them opening up to you. There’s more to just sitting there and listening to the person who is depressed. The agency gives them the opportunity to speak out about their situation. 

Utkarsha went on to focus on the importance of what depression can feel like to someone. The sense of hopelessness that they all feel is a major factor. It could be related to anything they are facing in their lives, such as loss or even lack of social support since the topic of mental illness is often considered taboo in some cultures. Since there is a negative connotation that comes with mental illness, it’s important to focus on building hope one day at a time for anyone you notice is going through it. And make sure you create that safe space for them. Ankit continued to say how hope has an immense ability to increase the propensity to look forward to something, whether small or big. 

He shared an instance he encountered on the heyy platform, where college kids were procrastinating on their future and how to go about things once they were done, which in turn affected their studies and caused depression. Yet, they started taking part in small day-to-day tasks which helped bring in that hope for a better future, that they lacked. Depression has the ability to take it away, but as you start doing small little tasks to occupy your time, you’ll slowly see the difference. 

Self-care is precious. But you define your own precious. 

Everyone has different circumstances, so it’s totally fine if you don’t have anybody physically around to help out if you’re feeling particularly down. One thing anyone can try focusing on are self soothing strategies- as Utkarsha puts it. She mainly has a safety kit for depression which also includes contact numbers for helplines and people they can reach out to that act as therapists. In a more individualistic sense of resources, it could be something that would comfort a depressed person. It can be a music playlist, a hope box from creative therapy or even somatic exercises. Somatic exercises can range from self hugging, breathing exercises to any sort of grounding techniques that calm their minds and keep them present. 

It is also advisable when in an emergency, it’s always better for them to make sure all their overwhelming emotions reach that peak, until it falls down to use any self-soothing strategies. So even if a therapist is not available at the moment, or a person isn’t reachable, there are quite a few strategies at their disposal. 

This is where heyy Helpers can also come in as well, if people don’t have anyone to physically turn to. They’re always available for a chat that is confidential and completely safe for all. Since heyy is backed by professional psychologists, our users get the best possible help. 

Living with depression and how to cope

Towards the end of the talk some questions came in and a viewer asked Utkarsha how to deal with a long distance marriage because of the pandemic and depression it can bring to both. The world has gone through an immensely difficult time and there has been so much distance between families, friends and partners. It is understandable that a lot of doubt and questioning can make itself known under such circumstances. But one thing is essential to cope through the distance, and that is communication and creating shared rituals. True, there is very little you can do if you’re not physically together, but there are some virtual activities that you can do to make sure the both of you aren’t growing apart. She also addressed how it was a necessity to have a support system in place before taking care of someone else’s mental health. It’s very important to have that balance when you communicate, share rituals and make specific time for each other.

Dig beyond the defence and unintentional words

In most cases, when you’re trying to help a loved one they tend to become defensive. It is a very common occurrence and derives from the taboo surrounding mental health, where they feel as if they are a failure. Thus, it’s very important for them not to see this as a failure and not create dialogue and conversations surrounding the topic. Bringing in the shared narrative that there are people besides them going through this, and showing them stories of people struggling and stories of people who have taken help. Shared stories shows them that they are not alone during their struggle. 

It is also important to remember their agency and give them that space and time during this time. Utkarsha emphasized the importance of control of their discovery and the time they need to navigate it as you de-stigmatize the dialogue surrounding it whilst making it known you’re available whenever and wherever for them.

Ankit and Utkarsha unboxed the problem surrounding unintentional words and how that can hurt someone. Navigating through it is difficult, but starting with sorry is the first and most important thing you can do. Taking accountability for your actions that have hurt them and allowing them to decide the fate of your future relationship is a must. Perhaps they want to set boundaries or take some time away from you. It’s completely normal and justifiable after everything that has happened. If the outcome is negative and your ‘sorry’ has been rejected, you have to respect the circumstances that have fallen into your lap. Boundaries are important and imposing on them after you’ve hurt them is not very fair as Utkarsha said. 

Loneliness and depression go hand in hand

A viewer brought in a valid statement on how being alone can often lead to depression for no reason, which Utkarsha rebuked by saying feeling depressed for no reason is completely valid and there is no point defending it with logic. She believes being alone is a huge reason to be upset and feel sad. Even if it’s something small which causes you depression, it’s completely valid.

Humans are social beings, and a lot of our energy is dependent on interactions with people around us and the support they give us. They give us the validation that we sometimes fail to give ourselves, which falls under a lot of characteristics we see in an individual like confidence, self esteem and how they perceive themselves. If there is no one around to help take you out of that loneliness, talking to a professional is the next best option. 

Ankit brought in a case of how pets can also help with that loneliness as they bring a certain level of companionship. Having a pet at home is liberating, where you can talk to them and take care of them. 

As the conversation came to an end, Utkarsha wanted to stress on a topic related to caregivers and anyone helping someone with depression. A lot of the time they tend to feel like a personal failure themselves if the person refuses to take help. That responsibility lingers, but at the end of the day, you have to be aware that it is that person’s choice.

You can be there for them however they want you to be, but forcing help on them when they don’t want it is not right. They could either be uncomfortable with us or not prefer the methods used. Hence why open communication between the two parties is important. It is also significant to remember that mental illness is not a failure and so aren’t your helping capabilities. 

Just do the best you can do to be there for your loved ones and try whatever you can.

Learn more about mental health care and
what you can do