Items ideas for a Care package for a depressed friend
February 4, 2012 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Ideas for a birthday care package to send to a very good friend who lives several states away who is suffering from severe depression?

My friend & ex boyfriend (male, late thirties), who is suffering from pretty severe depression, lives several states away. We talk on the phone every so often, and his depression is getting much worse. He is receiving professional care and trying different medications. I would like to send him a birthday care package to cheer him up. I am at a loss for what to put in it besides a heartfelt card. Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
virtually anything would be great - because anything would show him that somebody cares. cookies or other food, a card, something for the house, a funny book (thurber or benchley or wodehouse stories), a couple of cd's or records - doesn't matter. my opinion.
posted by facetious at 9:58 PM on February 4, 2012

I agree that anything would show that you care, but I think tactile things are a good way to go. When I was depressed I'd go through periods when reading was really difficult (poor memory/concentration), and sometimes I couldn't be bothered to listen to a CD or something, even. Sometimes things can seem really dry and dark to depressed people, so I think tactile things and other things that really awaken your senses -- soft blanket, smooth stones, candles, bright objects like bracelets or socks -- can help. Things that can awaken feelings and moods and memories as you touch them. Sometimes thinking while depressed can be a real trial, so just some simple things are better.
posted by sweetkid at 10:05 PM on February 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

I would say something that can help him out with the things he's having trouble doing. I know that when my depression gets bad I won't do laundry for as long as possible--for me, something like a gift certificate to a laundry service would be the best thing imaginable. If you have some knowledge of what's hard for him to do when everything gets really bad, go for something that would help him out.

My suggestions would be a service of some kind. A house cleaner, laundry service, meal delivery, etc. A professional massage is often suggested on ask, and I would definitely agree with that. Sometime the act of human contact can make a world of difference.
posted by zhi at 10:10 PM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think sweetkid has the right idea with things that can be comforting or trigger a pleasant sense memory (I was thinking favorite scents). Also if you know other people who care about him maybe ask them if they'd give you some messages about why he is special or loved? You could do a jar with notes to draw from or a decorative notebook. I hope that's not too cheesy!
posted by brilliantine at 10:13 PM on February 4, 2012

A care package is a nice gesture, but depression can lead to some very counterintuitive thought patterns. Your package may not necessarily make your friend feel better. For example, if you included something reminiscent of a happier time in his life, he could think anything along the lines of "What happy times those were. And now everything is ruined!" or "I must be loathsome to my friends in this state if they're sending me these things now."
posted by Nomyte at 10:24 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

New sheets. It's hard to wash your sheets enough when you're really depressed, so having extras on hand is so helpful. Also towels, socks, bath robe, slippers, pj's. Same reason.
posted by devymetal at 10:56 PM on February 4, 2012 [8 favorites]

A pack of colored pencils and a little sketchbook. Draw and color in a jumbo-sized heart on its first page.
posted by mcbeth at 11:06 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

You sound like a great friend!

It can be really hard to get out of the house and see people when one is depressed, maybe you can do something to help with that. What about a gift certificate for him to go to a restaurant with a local mutual friend?
posted by vasi at 12:34 AM on February 5, 2012

I feel that you're on a well-meaning but slightly ill-advised wrong track. A birthday gift that is intended "to cheer him up," as you mention your goal is, will probably only make him feel worse because it reminds him that he needs cheering up. If your gift this year is significantly different than gifts you have given him in the past (and gifts he has given you), it's probably not the right thing.

Whatever it is, I think it has to be something meaningful to him. Something personal. Which means only you can know what it should be. I know that's far from helpful, but it's my two cents.
posted by lewedswiver at 12:55 AM on February 5, 2012

Is there some way you can contact his caregiver(s) for advice on this subject? There may be patient confidentiality issues that get in the way, but it could be beneficial.
posted by germdisco at 3:05 AM on February 5, 2012

I'm in a pretty similar state to your friend (though I'm having a rare "good" morning so far). I think sweetkid has the right idea. I've been trying to read the same book since August and I feel nervous about my ability to even make it through half of a movie. So maybe no books or DVDS? If you were in town or had mutual good friends who were near him, I'd say go over and do his dishes, help him change his sheets, take out his trash... Sometimes a friend will do that for me without me even asking and I can't tell you how stupidly grateful I am... a little embarrassed but so grateful. But since you're far away and that sort of thing can be tough to coordinate, I'd say:

-a blanket (tactile and could serve as a motivator to make his bed... I have a red wool blanket that kinda motivates me in this silly way... it just looks nicer neatly folded). There are lovely bright colored afghans available on Etsy.
-socks (mentioned above) are good...a friend brought me back a pair from his trip to NYC and it's comforting when I put them on. or mittens?
-a gift certificate to a local coffee shop (I'm throwing this in there because one of my goals for the new year is to leave my house more and I figured sitting in a coffee shop reading my book would help me cope with anxiety)
-in terms of scent, I like mint and vanilla and pine needles - you could send him some sort of beeswax candle with natural extracts - or there are these pine needle satchels in the Whole Body section of Whole Foods. YMMV cause I don't know what scents he likes.

You're a good friend!
posted by pinetree at 4:52 AM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

A pack of colored pencils and a little sketchbook. Draw and color in a jumbo-sized heart on its first page.
I don't know about the first bit of this advice, but as you're his ex, I'd definitely advice against the latter.
posted by Ms. Next at 5:42 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know quite how this would work, but could you send him some pre-assembled thing to bake. (Or, uh, cookie dough, if you can mail it frozen.) Baking does require non-zero effort (since you have to turn the oven on and then get yourself to bake X minutes later, at least if your oven is as slow as mine), but it always leaves me feeling a bit better, since I find it relaxing and like the sense of accomplishment. Send him a mix that takes as many steps out of the process as possible. (I'm really thinking something like cookie dough, where it's turn on the oven, scoop the dough onto the tray, stick in oven, get out of oven, but then he'd have to defrost it.) Nothing more involved than 'just add water', though, as it runs the risk he's run out of butter/oil/whatever.
posted by hoyland at 5:57 AM on February 5, 2012

From personal, recent experience: Agreeing with pinetree that the most welcome thing would be someone to do the washing up/laundry and pick up a few things off the floor, but where that's not possible, a really soft blanket and socks. If all you can do is lie on the sofa (which may well be the case if he's severely depressed), doing it enveloped in something tactile from someone who cares for you would be a little comforting.

If he's really depressed, I think the cookie dough, while a lovely idea, would be too much, however easy it is to do - don't underestimate the utter motivational vacuum depression can cause, and the further depressing effect of realising you're not even up to doing something as simple as turning the oven on. Some easy-to-eat healthy snacks that take zero preparation might be more appropriate as his appetite may have gone and he might be struggling to stay well-fed. If it has, some sachets of Complan (meal replacement drinks) and a variety of different-flavoured cereal bars might be a better idea - not comforting, but extremely useful.

Also, sending texts to say things like: "I'm thinking of you, you're doing all the right things that mean you will get well, however hard it is to believe that now", or ask just "How are you today?" on a regular basis will be welcome, even if his answer to the latter is always "Terrible", or if he doesn't reply. A little thoughtful contact, even as little a text, pierces the loneliness that depression can cause.

Thanks for doing this for your friend. It's in situations like this that you can come to appreciate just how awesome friends can be.

And finally, if he's at a stage where he is up to going online a little, send him a link to this AskMe thread.
posted by penguin pie at 7:40 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing all the suggestions to get him help with any day-to-day chores. with the fatigue and mind-fog of depression, it's really hard to get yourself to do what you need to do, and you end up with little time to enjoy the leisurely gifts you might get.
posted by michelle lightning at 10:32 AM on February 5, 2012

Some things that smell nice(aromatherapy), like a little jar of ground cardamom, a vanilla candle, some lavender sachets. And music - when I'm very depressed, I forget to play music, even though I know music makes me feel happy. A care package with some tasty, not too unhealthy snacks - organic jerky, rice crackers, granola/energy bars, etc. Sometimes depressed people have no energy to make food. Vitamins - D, B complex and fish oil are often recommended. Frequent supportive cards and emails are nice.
posted by theora55 at 11:06 AM on February 5, 2012

Is there anything that he has mentioned that he misses/wants/needs from either childhood, previous part of his life, etc? I say this because when I was a Freshman in college I mentioned to my mom that I couldn't enjoy toast in the dorm because the jelly was gross - she sent me a few little jars of room-service-type jam and it was such a nice treat!
posted by radioamy at 8:58 AM on February 6, 2012

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