Help Hurting People Without Hurting Yourself: Summary of a Plan that Works

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who fight mental illness, addiction, and abuse  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Your family member, co-worker, spouse, romantic partner, friend, employee, or student is depressed. Majorly depressed.  You wonder how you can help, if you should become involved, and when life will return to normal.

What can you do with all the mixed emotions you are experiencing? You fear too much stress, and perhaps even a case of your own depression. The key is insight.

Insight guides your compassion 

Before we can operate in a meaningful way, we have to start with knowledge. Depression is one word with two definitions. You may hear, “I am so depressed, this weather makes me want to stay home in bed.” That is an example of the first definition: a state of being sad, low mood, feeling down.

Depression under the second definition is a potentially disabling or fatal condition. Several serious, combined symptoms, causing observable struggles with daily functioning, will occur most of the day most days for at least two weeks before a clinician will diagnose major depression.

Every one of us has nights we wish we did not have to wake up in the morning. Grief, burnout, and bad days are part of life.  Yet most people will never experience anything more than these blues. This is why  understanding the difference is beneficial as you care for your loved one who is majorly depressed.  

Insight into personal boundaries helps you and your loved one cope

Thoughtfully established boundaries protect you from losing peace of mind. Contrary to a familiar definition of “lines in the sand,” boundaries are not about stopping someone else’s negativity or demands. Think about it – you have no control over other people’s choices or over external events. None.   

Your power begins when you draw a circle around yourself. Ask, “What will I allow in here with me? What will I accept from others? What will I carry, and how will I respond?” 

Healthy boundaries are not selfish! They are doable and successful. Compassionate Boundaries, a nine-part series of posts, shows the way.  As you develop your yeses and nos, freedom will surprise you.

Meanwhile, boundaries based on realistic limitations protect you from burnout. You remain present and able to help your depressed loved one without resentment.  

Insight into what to do or say heals your fear

We want to do what is right. Stigma and myths cause us to hesitate out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. The gold standard of support is letting  one who struggles know you care. 

No, talking about depression does not make it worse. No, your loved one cannot snap out of it.  Yes, professional treatment works for most people. Yes, you can confidently know what to do if a person speaks of suicide. Yes, you have many options. 

Non-critical acceptance is important. Scolding does not help. Invitations, gifts, acts of service and more, provide some water in the wilderness of depression. Anything you have to offer matters, even if you think it is little.


BookThis Practical Seminar: How to Help Hurting People without Hurting Yourself

This seminar is designed to shed insight into depression and anxiety,  show practical ways supports do help, and provide necessary tools for healthy boundaries which protect everyone concerned.   
  • Analogies and stories
  • Interactive 
  • Practical answers to common questions 
  • Factual responses to stigmas and myths 

Please email Nancy at, or use this convenient form.   For more information follow these links:   Testimonials      Bio       



NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental and behavioral health challenges.  In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S.  (for international emergency numbers, go here ), or go to your nearest emergency room. Do not be alone. Hope and help are yours.

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