Trying to understand what is going on in the mind of someone in depression is the first step. Reading articles, books, watching documentaries can all help you understand a little more about the illness.
Of course the best place to begin is having been through it yourself. That is a privileged position because you already know exactly how terrible and painful it feels to be in depression.
That does not mean to say you should talk about your own experience of depression. This is always tempting. To bring the conversation to yourself and begin offering advice.
However what someone in depression really needs is simply for you to come along them. To accompany them in their vulnerability. To listen. To remain silent. Not to interrupt. To be there.
It's an extremely demanding thing to be a friend to someone in depression. Patience is the number one rule.
The temptation is to assume that there will be some form of progress since last you met but depression is a long term illness. Visible signs of relief are rare and can come and go like the wind.
Asking questions can be a burden for the suffering friend. There is already enough going on inside her head which needs releasing in one way or other. To answer questions just adds to the weight of thoughts pounding away.
Going for a silent walk in nature can be a real help. Sharing the scenes, the scents and the exercise. Then returning home for a cup of tea, again without questioning. Answering only when asked. Just being there.
Rather than ask “what can I do to help”, as you visit someone at their home, just pick up the cloth and begin cleaning the kitchen. Fold any clothes. Empty the laundry basket and put on a machine load. Take out the ironing board and just begin these practical tasks.
Some people may be offended but on the whole, the relief of such tasks being taken off the shoulders of the depressed friend will be huge.
Someone in depression will find it extremely hard asking or accepting help. That's why it's important just to get on with it.
Bring a hot meal around with you, or a home-made cake. Bring something practical to make their life easier.
People often think of bringing a book but be careful what you choose. The sufferer will have a hard time concentrating so make it a coffee table book with photos or pictures. Those in depression can cope with only a few words at a time.