Do you or someone you know suffer from depression? If you do, you know that it can take a lot out of you and other people around you. Learning how to deal with depression yourself or help someone with depression can be overwhelming too as there are a lot of dos and donts.
How you approach the person with the illness can also vary depending on what type of depression they have. At times it can seem like too much and you may not know where to start.
It is for this reason that we at Psych2Go have compiled a few standard things that you can do, across the board to help someone with depression. If you are someone who suffers from depression or knows someone who does, this article is for you.
This article is not meant to diagnose or treat anything. It is intended for educational and information purposes only. If you need further help or advice please contact a mental health professional near you.
Keep reading to learn 7 ways you can help someone with depression.
1- Learn and Listen
In order to help someone with depression you first have to learn about what depression is and how it can manifest. Depression is not a standard mental illness, it can look like very different things from sadness to loss of energy to anger and irritability. This depends on what type of depression the person is experiencing, their age, and their gender.
For example, in children and teens depression can be seen as irritability or high-risk behavior. In men depression mostly manifests are anger or irritability. And, in women, depression manifests in deep sadness or melancholy. Even with these metrics, there are exceptions. So, learning about depression as much as possible will enable you to pinpoint its signs and better help the ones suffering from it.
It is tempting to ask the person with depression for information but, as an article in Healthline says, being asked these kinds of questions is exhausting especially if the person with depression has to repeat themselves over and over again. In which case, it is better to learn about this on your own.
Another important thing you can do to help is to approach them and listen to them. Listen and learn about the way they experience their depression. Take note of their individual signs and signals for different things.
“Let your friend know you’re there for them”, says the Healthline article, “Keep in mind that your friend may want to talk about what they feel, but they might not want advice.”
Healthline suggests that you can do this by asking questions such as “It seems like you’ve been having a hard time lately. What’s on your mind?”, “The last few times we hung out, you seemed a little down. Is there anything going on you that you’d like to talk about?”, and “You mentioned going through some hard times recently — how are you feeling about everything?”
For listening techniques Healthline lists the following:
- Ask questions to get more information instead of assuming you understand what they mean.
- Validate their feelings. You might say, “That sounds really difficult. I’m sorry to hear that.”
- Show empathy and interest with your body language.
Remember that at first your friend or family member may not want to talk about it but keep telling them that you care and are here for them.
2- Help them find support & Keep it
For anyone, getting support when they need it can be frightening. Not only because they don’t know where to start but also because of the stigmas associated with mental health. If your friend seems interested in getting some kind of help, you can assist them by looking into and vetting different health professionals. You can help them schedule appointments and support them through the process.
Once they have found a professional and a program they like, you can support them by encouraging them to keep engaging with the practices on days they don’t feel like going or doing anything.
“Encourage them to stick with it”, says an article on Healthline about helping someone with depression, “ You might say, ‘Last week you said your session was really productive and you felt a lot better afterward. What if today’s session helps, too?’’
Just like with sessions, if your friend or family member is taking medication for their depression, it is important that they continue taking them until they see their doctor again and discuss changing the treatment.
“If your friend wants to stop taking medication because of unpleasant side effects, be supportive, but encourage them to talk with their psychiatrist about switching to a different antidepressant or stopping their medication entirely”, states Healthline, “Stopping medications abruptly can lead to serious complications”.
3- Be compassionate
Compassion means identifying with another’s suffering and taking actions to help heal it. When it comes to having compassion for someone who has depression, the little things are what actually matter.
In depressive states small everyday tasks can have a toll on them, so helping them with small or daily chores whenever you can, will go a long way.
“Compassion really is key in helping someone to recover from any illness”, states Ditch The Label an organization created to help young people overcome issues that affect them the most, “Whether it is encouraging them to do something that might help them cope with their illness, like seeking out appropriate treatment, or offering to do something they are struggling with – even if it is just washing up the dishes!”
4- Have patience
Like anything in life, mental illnesses and the people suffering from them have highs and lows. They have good days and bad days, sometimes they progress and sometimes they take a few steps back.
It can be frustrating to feel like it’s all going in circles and nothing is getting better. But actual progress doesn’t truly come from the good experiences, it comes by overcoming the difficult ones.
“Recovering from depression can take a long time and it is important that everyone goes at their own pace; this illness, for many, is an ongoing battle throughout their lifetime and they’ll have to gradually learn how to manage, so be prepared for relapses”, says Ditch the Label on its article, “It is important to remember that even if they’ve started treatment, it may be a long time before they really start to feel better.”
Depression is a multilayered illness that takes time to unfold and heal, if you need time for yourself it is ok. Just remember that it is all a process.
5- Be more understanding and considerate
Telling people that they should get over it or that there are worse things happening in the world does not make them better. Instead, it invalidates their experiences and makes them feel guilty and shameful for their mental illness.
When we have a family member or friend with depression the appropriate thing to do is to gently bring them up, instead of tearing them down. Holding space for them, checking in on them, listening to them, putting yourself in their shoes, helping them, are all ways that you can be more understanding and considerate.
6- Spend time with them
Depression can make it hard for people to seek out others or go out especially if they are having a bad day or relapse. One of the symptoms of depression is to lose interest in activities and people that you used to enjoy. This leads to staying at home more and eventually avoiding people in general.
If you have someone with depression close to you, check in on them and invite them to spend time with you or to go out. At first, they may not want to but be supportive and do it continuously.
BetterHelp, an online therapy platform, gives advice on their page on how to spend time with your loved one.
“Make an effort to go out with them regularly or to invite them to group activities”, advises BetterHelp, “Doing things with other people can have a positive impact on their mental health”.
If group activities are still too much, you can try getting them to do one-on-one activities like exercise.
“Become their workout partner”, BetterHelp continues, “Although people with depression may not want to get up or exercise, doing something as simple as walking outside can boost their mood and help them feel better”.
7- Look out for yourself
Dealing with a mental illness can be exhausting so taking care of yourself and boundaries are a must. Doing this will also serve as an example for your loved ones and may encourage them to take care of themselves as well.
“If you put all your energy into supporting your friend, you’ll have very little left for yourself,” states an article on Healthline, “And if you’re feeling burned out or frustrated, you won’t be much help to your friend”.
Practicing self-care will help you recharge and be better equipped to keep helping your friend or family member. So, don’t overlook this step, instead plan for it so the exhaustion doesn’t take you by surprise.
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Angers, L. (2020, August 28). How To Help Someone Who Is Depressed: 3 Steps To Make A Difference | BetterHelp. BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/how-to/how-to-help-someone-who-is-depressed-3-steps-to-make-a-difference/?utm_source=AdWords&utm_medium=Search_PPC_c&utm_term=_&utm_content=118051369567&network=g&placement=&target=&matchtype=&utm_campaign=11771068538&ad_type=text&adposition=&gclid=CjwKCAiA24SPBhB0EiwAjBgkhipPhCRiuHSP3z37K4_57_-GrW4ciiSH0nDiQOcMRe1FcKDiz81VNRoC1qYQAvD_BwE
Label, D. T. (2021, January 4). 5 Tips on How You Can Help Someone With Depression (From Someone Who Has It). Ditch the Label. https://www.ditchthelabel.org/depression-how-you-can-help-others/?gclid=CjwKCAiA24SPBhB0EiwAjBgkhn8bdZfdoPbRLtMHSCz2vXd7yZ6s737RKv8_Kfvu6d2vuyn75BuSqBoCoCsQAvD_BwE
Raypole, C. (2021, November 3). How to Help Someone with Depression. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-help-a-depressed-friend#things-to-avoid