Watching a loved one suffer from depression is incredibly difficult. All you want to do is help them feel better. But when it becomes obvious you can’t take their pain away, you can become frustrated.
As a friend or family member of someone suffering from depression, remember that your loved one is dealing with a real medical condition and you are, most likely, not equipped to handle their recovery alone.
Not everyone understands that depression is a disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. We tend to tell someone, “Just get over it.” “Go do something fun.” “Go outside and it will change how you feel.” Depression requires professional treatment.
There are, however, things you can do to support your loved one and help them on their journey back toward health and happiness. Here are 5 ways you can support a loved one suffering from depression.
1. Show Empathy
Show empathy to your loved one. Let them know you understand it’s difficult and that you are there to support them. Tell them you’re not going to make them do something they’re uncomfortable with or do activities they don’t want to. Just be there for them.
2. Understand That Treatment Is Key and Seek Help
Depression is a medical condition and it requires treatment from a professional therapist. Do not try and take on someone’s depression by yourself. Yes, lend support, care, and compassion, but understand that they will need medical treatment, just as they would if their leg was broken or if they had cancer. If they do not recognize how important treatment is, do your best to help them understand. Tell them a licensed therapist is someone they can talk to who won’t judge them and who will understand what they’re going through.
To find help, talk to a doctor, or contact a licensed therapist who is experienced in helping those suffering from depression. Depression may be treated by a number of different methods, including medications, counseling and alternative treatments such as neurotherapy.
Avoid labeling or judging a depressed person. Depression is not an easy mindset to change, especially if brain chemicals are off. It’s a disorder like diabetes or cancer. It doesn’t just go away. Seek counseling or neurofeedback.
3. Be Vocal in Your Support
Often loved ones suffering from depression are the topic of conversation, but not part of it. It’s not enough to talk to other family members and discuss how concerned you are about, for example, your sister or uncle suffering from depression; let your sister and uncle know you see them suffering and you’re there for support. Offer to drive them to therapy or simply lend an ear. Those suffering from depression often feel lonely and isolated, so reach out as best you can.
4. Help Them Stay Part of the World
Those suffering from depression typically lose interest in activities they once found enjoyable. You can help your loved one by getting them active and part of the world once more. The key is to be patient and stay committed. You can’t force your loved one to take you up on an invitation. Don’t bully them; just encourage them as best you can. Should they say “no” to your invitation 50 times, don’t give up on them. Be patient, and stay committed. Through weekly treatment they will eventually come around and say “yes.”
Help them set some small goals for going out to do something they might enjoy, and plan ahead for them. For example, decide on a day to take them out to lunch or go for a walk. If they’re depressed, they’re more likely to do the activity with someone else.
5. Get Educated
One of the best things you can do to support your loved one who is suffering from depression is to learn as much about the condition as you possibly can. A good place to start is www.nami.org. It’s also helpful to speak with their therapist to get recommendations of resources that will help you learn more.
Watching a loved one suffer from depression is not easy, but knowing there are ways you can help them will lighten the load for you both.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, we offer a free consultation. We are experienced at helping children with depression as well as adults. Call us to learn more at 801-855-7999.
If a loved one is having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, don’t leave them alone. Call for help: 911 or, in our local area, the Davis County crisis line at 801-773-7060. But don’t leave them. They are less likely to hurt themselves if someone is with them. Coordinate with family to have someone stay with them until you can get professional help.