Remind yourself and us that this is an illness not a character flaw. We aren’t lazy. We aren’t antisocial. We aren’t irresponsible. We are ill. Remind both of us, often.
Don’t wait until we hit rock bottom, thinking that is when we will finally try. We probably are trying but for us a huge success is a tiny everyday matter for you.
Socialize with us. We won’t want you to, but do it anyway. This will mean not accepting it when we don’t want to do anything or talk. This works much better if you don’t wait to intervene until we have completely cut ourselves off from the world.
Get us to a doctor. Take us. Make sure we take the meds if we seem like we don’t want to.
Take us for walks. Short walks at first, but walk outside. Exercise is a huge help for us but we can’t change patterns easily and so starting a walk is hard.
Help us with practical things – doing our laundry or cleaning. If possible we should help but don’t overwhelm us with a huge plan to fix all the things wrong in the household. Do something reasonable and directly obvious.
Doing productive things helps. So if we had a hobby like knitting or drawing or whatever, come over and do it with us for a while.
Put us in new situations. Not overwhelming ones – just things that make our brain move outside the existing pathways that have us tied into a rut of nothingness. A concert in the park, a new restaurant, the zoo, anything that is not the usual.
Encourage us to talk or write about our issues and frustrations.
Don’t assume we aren’t trying because we didn’t do something.
Don’t hide what you are doing, pretending you are not trying to help. Explain why you are doing it and why it’s a good idea for us. Depressed people aren’t stupid and we want to get better. Manipulation is condescending.