Helplessness of the Willing

The untold story of spectators witnessing depression.


media by Eila Liu

A graphic depicts the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline emergency phone number: 988.

by Eila Liu, Reporter

The truth is, when someone close to you is suffering, you may want to help. However, despite all you want to do, you can’t do a single thing; I couldn’t either. Trapped in a situation where our words come in through one ear and out the other, encased in a space where everything we do is irrelevant and useless, what can we do to help those around us? 

However, no matter who around you is suffering, be it family, friend, or lover, we are a part of their lives in some way shape or form. We can make their day a little brighter, even if we can’t bring them out of their daunting mindset. But then again, the question is how. How can we help them? How can we distract them from the torment that looms over their shoulders just a little longer? 

I am by no means an expert on mental health. By no means should this be a compromise for professional help. There is no full-fledged solution that applies to every situation. However, there are several ways you can help someone who is suffering from depression: 

Be Patient

It takes time to open up, especially for those who are suffering mentally. Don’t attempt to push an answer out of them, it’s one of the most pressuring actions you can do in that situation. It may be frustrating at first, but they eventually may open up if you give them the time. Sarah A. Schnitker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Texas, and other health professionals wrote a paper on how patience is associated with depressive symptoms. Increased patience reveals decreased depressive symptoms. So, in the meantime, show your patience. Let them know that you’re there if they need you, but indicate that you won’t push it if they feel uncomfortable. 

Know Yourself

Bethany Judy, a clinical psychologist, medically reviewed a paper on how to aid someone with depression. A point of this paper was self-awareness. Be aware of your own boundaries. Know what you’re okay with and what you’re not, and make it clear to them. It’s unrealistic to let them expect everything of you, so let them know what they can expect.  This will allow you to be consistent, and in turn, make you more reliable. Furthermore, know when you need a break. It’ll definitely be hard to take one when you feel like you could be doing so much more for the person in question. However, if you don’t take a little time to take care of yourself, it’ll be hard to help them. Compare it to saving a drowning person, to get them out of the water, you must first be out of the water yourself.

Research Depression on Your Own Time

It would be tiring to explain what the condition is over and over again, so educate yourself on the subject beforehand so that they don’t have to explain. Jeffery Borenstein, M.D.,P resident and CEO of Brain Behavior & Research Foundation, wrote a piece that encouraged learning what it is and the symptoms. Not only does this help you understand their condition, it also shows that you care enough to take action for them and will also aid you as you help them through hard times. 

Offer Practical Help 

Timothy J. Legg, a psychiatric mental health nurse, overviews a paper on the correlation between depression and forgetfulness. The study led researchers to deduce depression has negative effects on memory. Furthermore, a published piece on Intrepid Mental Wellness expressed that depressed individuals often forget to do mundane tasks such as eating. So, when they forget, you can help them by offering to help them with mundane tasks they forget to do. These small actions can make their day a little brighter.

Be Prepared for an Emergency Situation

Intrepid Mental Health’s piece on mental health encourages being prepared to act at a moment’s notice when an emergency situation arises. Prepare beforehand by going through the procedures in your head, this way you don’t waste time if something actually happens. It also helps to remember emergency service numbers by heart.