Here are the Best Ways to Support a Loved One with Depression
You feel hopeless. Maybe even slightly hurt. But you know it’s not about you.
The truth is: Depression is tough - not just for the person who is depressed but also for the people who love and care about them.
And caring for someone who’s depressed is a challenging and difficult task. Many days you may feel like there’s nothing you can do. It’s like this shadow has reared its ugly face into your life and the life of the one you love. And this shadow just won’t fade.
The one you love is saying out of character things, maybe things they don’t really mean at all. They’ve become lost and hopeless. They’ve begun to spiral. It may happen in waves or there may be one particular episode of depression.
Whatever your particular situation is, know you’re not alone - and that it’s okay to talk to someone about it as well. In fact, you should. Your mental health can become severely affected as well via your loved one’s mental health issues. It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault. It just is.
But what can you do in the meantime? How can you begin to overcome this?
The first step is by understanding or trying to understand. While if you’ve never had depression or other mental health issues before, you may not fully be able to understand. But you can do your best. If you’re reading this, you’re off to a great start!
Symptoms of depression may vary from one situation to the next. But becoming familiar with the ones associated with the person you care about helps in leaps and bounds. And sometimes, there are patterns or triggers.
Often, a depression episode is signified by two weeks or more of a depressed mood. The person may have lost interest in the things that usually spark something in them. They may not find pleasure in any activity. Again, know it isn’t your fault or their fault. It’s depression.
Common symptoms also include the following:
- Angry outbursts or irritability.
- Hopelessness, sadness, emptiness.
- A loss of appetite.
- Easily agitated.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Interestingly, in children and teenagers, the most notable signs are sadness and irritability. Be aware of these symptoms and signs. And approach the topic lightly. If a person who is depressed feels accused, they often won’t respond well. They already don’t feel good. Again, this all comes back to understanding a little more about depression and mental health.
One of The Best Things You Can Do Is Encourage Them To Seek Help.
You aren’t a professional. Therefore, there is only so much that you can do. And yes, when someone is depressed, they may not want to own their symptoms. They may not want to seek out help. But encourage them to anyway.
Don’t put the pressure on. But come at it from a place of understanding. Most people don’t get better on their own. And it can actually get worse without treatment. Treatment is the best option they have.
So, how should you go about this exactly?
Here are a few tips to help you have that tough-to-have conversation:
- Come from a place of concern. Express gently what you’ve noticed. Most importantly, explain why you are concerned. Tell them you care. Tell them they are loved and that is why you are bringing it up. Don’t accuse.
- Consider suggesting an initial appointment with their family doctor. Maybe it’s medically related? At least, this is a good start to get them talking about it to a healthcare professional. And offer to go with them. Tell them they don’t have to do it alone. You’re there for them.
- State what you know about depression from your research while emphasizing that you care.
- Re-emphasize that they don’t have to do it alone. Say you’ll help them prepare, mentally as well as with how to breach the topic with the doctor. Remember, this is just about starting the conversation. It takes small steps.
Become a Listener - Don’t Push Things
Show compassion. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t just disregard it. They already likely don’t feel that great about themselves, so having someone to just listen helps in leaps and bounds.
When the conversation comes to a pause, re-assure them with phrases, such as
- “I care about you and am here for you,”
- “You aren’t alone. I’m here with you,”
- “I don’t fully understand how you feel but I do want to help in any way I can,”
- “Tell me how I can help you.”
Do not throw the problem into the wind and say that it’s just a phase and they’ll get over it. Avoid asking them to see the positive side. Don’t tell them to just snap out of it. Depression isn’t something you can just snap out of.
If you don’t know what to say, just listen. Yes, it’s tough. But it’s the best thing to do.
What Else Can You Do Besides Talk to Them?
→ Bring over meals or offer to do small tasks for them.
→ Offer to help out with chores, such as cleaning or laundry.
→ Schedule appointment for them and take them to and from their appointments.
→ Ask what you can do for them or if there is anything they need.
→ Show them and tell them you care.
If they appear suicidal and are at risk of suicide, call 9-1-1. Do not leave your loved one alone. But also seek out the proper help.
Don’t Forget About Yourself
You can’t give your best without being at your best. Make sure you attend to your own mental health needs as well. Don’t neglect yourself. Strive to remain hopeful and positive. It’s tough. And it’s okay to break down every now and again. It’s okay to be sad that they’re sad, but know your limits. Know you need to also take care of yourself.
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