How to Talk to Someone You Love About Their Depression
Talking about depression is the new norm. And chances are you likely know someone that has been diagnosed with it.
I know close family members, friends, and S.O.’s that have battled and are battling depression. It’s tough. It’s hard to see someone you care about struggle. You feel helpless and guilty. It’s frustrating and scary. But, guess what? It’s entirely normal and okay to feel this way.
We aren’t necessarily taught in school about it - about what to do or how to talk to someone you love about their depression. And it isn’t easy.
Part of it comes down to compassionate relationship communication and another aspect that comes into play is taking care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you expect to be able to take care of or support someone else?
Learning About Depression is the Best Thing You Can Do
Do your research. And hey, reading this article is a great starting point!
The World Health Organization states that “depression is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 years old.” Over 800 000 people die by suicide every year. The statistics don’t lie - Depression is a serious mental illness.
And no, people can’t just flip the switch on it. Many assume that people with depression are lazy. Or that they should just do this one thing and their life would be that much better. Yet, these attitudes are far from the truth.
Depression is a mood disorder causing consistent feelings of sadness. An individual may lose interest in their regular activities and life. It impacts their behaviour, energy, motivation, the way they think, and the way they feel.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
- Frustration, irritability, or angry outbursts
- Loss of interest in regular activities, including hobbies and sex
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- A reduced appetite or sudden change in weight
- Feelings of self-blame, failure, or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating, problem-solving, or with memory recall
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
- Physical issues, such as headaches or pain
These symptoms may appear for part of the day, the full day, and they may seep into one’s everyday activities. Often, there is a noticeable withdrawal from their life, and activities that they used to enjoy.
Lesson #1: Try Not to Take Things Personally
This is a tough one to learn. It’s hard to hear your loved one say hurtful and awful things. Know that it is the depression talking. Learn to judge the situation and to not take these comments to heart. They don’t mean it. And yes, it takes mental strength to get through these times. Use your support system. Talk to friends and family outside of your depressed loved one (even talk to a therapist if you need to!).
You have to make sure to take care of your own mental health. When someone is depressed, they may be unable to connect emotionally or physically with you. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you or care about you.
And it’s a hard concept to wrap your head around. We are constantly told that people act and say how they feel. A person with depression is a mental state where essentially everything sucks. Constantly remind yourself that it is the depression talking, not the individual. Be there for them when they need you. Remind them that you care.
Lesson #2: Don’t Hide It.
Encourage your loved one to be open about their depression. If they are not up for attending a social function, don’t lie about it. Be honest. It will encourage them to get help.
Plus, others may reach out. Lying is never a good idea. And it won’t get rid of it. Honesty is always the best policy.
Lesson #3: Don’t Try to Fix Their Depression.
As much as you want to and as much as you try, don’t burden yourself with fixing them. You can’t fix them. Nor is it your responsibility to do so. Instead, be there for them. Support them. Again, make sure they know you care. Recovery is up to the person that is depressed. Help them get the help they need to guide their recovery process.
Talking to Your Loved One
Yes, this can be a challenge. Depressed individuals often isolate themselves and withdrawal from others. And remember, you aren’t in it to fix it. Just be there for them. Support them. Listen to them. And don’t judge.
How can you do this?
Ask questions! How can you support them? What can you do to help? Have they thought about getting help? What caused them to feel this way?
“I’m here for you. You aren’t alone.”
“You might not believe it right now - and that’s okay. But your feelings will change.”
“I don’t fully understand how you feel, but I’m here for you. I care about you.”
“Your life is important to me. You are important to me.”
“Just get over it.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“C’mon, snap out of it!”
“What is wrong with you?”
“We all feel like this sometimes.”
It’s a fine line. But be supportive, encourage them, and offer hope for the future. Again, letting them know you care goes a long way. Not to mention that relationship communication is tough for most people, without throwing depression into the mix. This is why it’s crucial to still maintain your own life and your own support system.
Take Care of Yourself First
But, be there for your loved one. Find a balance - you absolutely need it. Stick to your regular hobbies and plans. Don’t follow suit and withdrawal from your own life because of it. To give your best you have to be at your best. And you need a balance and a life outside of your depressed loved one to do so.
If you think your friend or family member may be thinking about suicide, talk to them as soon as you can and get them the proper professional help they need. Today, there are many viable treatment options for it.
Also, know that you are not alone! Depression is more common than you think. And no one expects you to fix them - don’t take on this responsibility, it isn’t yours to carry. Do what you can, support them, be there for them, help them seek professional help - it’s the most you can do, and it’s important that you try.