Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, has been deemed the most depressing day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. This is because of the short, dark days and frigid temperatures, the fact that’s it’s a Monday, and due to data that suggests most resolutions have failed by this day. (Also, did you know “winter depression” is a thing?)
For those battling depression, it can be an especially hard time of year. So we reached out to Jennifer Hollinshead, founder and clinical director of Peak Resilience, a counselling practice in Vancouver, for tips on how to help those who may be in need of support.
(Also, here are more tips on how to support a loved one struggling with depression.)
3 reasons to reach out to someone battling depression
1. They may know they need help, but aren’t comfortable asking for it.
Depression is a very isolating experience in general. Symptoms often include shame, meaning the person struggling with depression doesn’t think they’re worthy of help and doesn’t want to burden anyone. This is one of the reasons why it’s very difficult for someone battling depression to ask for the help they need.
2. They may not recognize the severity of their depression.
People struggling with depression might not want to admit or see the severity of their symptoms and how their symptoms may be impacting them. So reaching out to check in might help that person recognize the problem and get help.
3. It will benefit you, too.
Opening up to people and creating space for vulnerability is an interpersonal skill that not many people have mastered because it’s really hard and often nerve wracking. Learning how to create space for tough conversations can deepen relationships, create meaningful connections, and lead to more meaning and satisfaction in life.
(Psst: See how Kate Middleton supported her brother who battles depression.)
3 things to say or do
1. Acknowledge your hesitation and vulnerability in bringing depression up.
Say something like “I hesitate to talk about mental health because it’s so vulnerable and I don’t want to bring up difficult topics. But I really care about you and my care for you outweighs my fear of potentially awkward conversations.” This disclaimer shows that this is tough for both of you and you care enough to be vulnerable.
(Here’s what you should never say to someone battling depression.)
2. Truly listen to their response.
They might say “I’m fine” or “it’s no big deal” or “don’t worry.” You can acknowledge how they are functioning in various ways and are “fine,” but your hope for them is to be more than “fine.”
3. Suggest getting professional support from a counsellor, psychologist or social worker.
This is even more helpful if you can tell them that you have also gone to therapy for your own struggles. Speaking to someone with depression symptoms (or any mental health symptom) should come from a place of empathy—meaning you try to put yourself in their shoes. Understanding that depression is debilitating and a real illness (and not just a case of the blues) is important so you don’t fall into the trap of saying something trivializing like “you’ll get over it” or “everything will be ok.” Recognize that depression left untreated can be fatal and it’s imperative that people get support.
In terms of resources and where to go for support, there are many in-person and online programs in Canada (find them at Here to Help). It’s often tough to find the right mental health professional because personality, experience, availability and cost are all factors. Our practice, Peak Resilience, sees people from all backgrounds, and we’ve created a “finding the right counsellor” assessment form that those interested can fill out, and we match them to a counsellor based on their struggles, goals, personality and schedule.
Finally, it’s important to recognize that maintaining mental health is a lifelong process (just like physical health) and that finding the right mental health professional for you might take time but is worth the effort.
Next, check out the suicide warning signs that are easy to miss.