Many people across the world are suffering from depression, and the most unfortunate thing is that most do not know that they are struggling, or they live in denial of the same. There is a high chance that you must have met a person who is depressed, and you know someone who is living with depression today. Sometimes in such a situation, you may not know how to help your loved one without you becoming anxious, powerless, frustrated, conflicted, or even unequipped to give adequate help.
It takes a lot of courage and commitment to help someone with depression. In case you have decided to take this path, here are some do’s and don’ts you should consider supporting a loved one who is suffering from depression adequately.
- Listen without being judgemental. When you meet your depressed friend or family member, try to listen to what they are saying because they will know you want to understand what they are going through. It is always hard to resist the urge to cut them short and try to provide a solution but refrain completely. If you don’t, you will look judgemental. Listen and let them know that no matter what the depression is telling them you will always be on their side.
- Express your support and empathy. When it is time to encourage your loved one, express empathy and let them know that you were listening. Talk to them from the point you already have an idea of the pain they are suffering from, and they will believe that you genuinely care. A depressed person wants to feel understood, and from there you can encourage them and support them in any way possible. Assure them that you will be with them in every step of their recovery without fail.
- Find help from a specialist for them. When a person is depressed, it is hard for them to go looking for a medical professional on their own and as a person who cares, this should become your responsibility. Make it easy for them before it adds to the listing of their stressing issues. You can help them see a general doctor or a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, connect them with a depression support group or any other way that may help them get professional help. Some depression medicines such as Neurontin or Gabapentin may or may not work. Some medicines may come with some side effects, and this only adds more pain to their struggle. For instance, medication side effects can sometimes be severe whereby the patient experiences respiratory repression, stomach pains, memory loss and sores in the mouth among others. You should help them seek medical help to suppress such effects before they lose the battle.
- Have realistic expectations in everything you do for them. Since you are not a therapist, know what your friend expects from you and whether you can meet their expectations. Avoid promising them something that you cannot provide such as telling them that you will always go visit them, yet you know very well you have a busy work schedule. If you set unrealistic goals with your support, you will either disappoint your loved ones or will become unproductive in other areas of your life, which might lead to your own depression.
- Do not make a depressed person feel weak. Most people associate depression with instability or weakness, but you should never be such a person. Refrain from using phrases such as; be grateful, stop crying, be strong or appreciate what you have because all these will make your patient feel inadequate and eventually make things worse. If you try to tell a person not to be depressed when they are already depressed, it will only make them feel ashamed of themselves. Your role is to make them feel better by gradually controlling emotions rather than containing them.
- Do not hold any questions that might help. While you are supposed to be highly sensitive when dealing with a depressed person, do not hesitate to ask a question that might help them or might save their lives. Even if not every depressed person is suicidal – suicidal thoughts are related to depression. Ask your loved one if they are suicidal, especially when you realise they do not value life anymore or don’t see the importance of continuing to live. Ask them questions that will prove how much you care about them getting well soon. However, with every question you ask, avoid sounding intimidating.
- Avoid minimising their pain. For instance, do not try to tell your depressed friend that things might be worse because for them what they are going through right now is the worst they have experienced. People experience depression differently and even if you might have had a worse experience with depression yourself let them decide when their experience is better rather than it coming from you.
- Never give up on them. As stated earlier, dealing with a depressed person is not like a walk in the park, there are times your efforts will be frustrated, and you will feel powerless to continue. When you reach your limits in everything you try, do not walk away even if it feels like it is the only option remaining. At least try to talk to your loved ones and tell them how you feel. Together, you can try options you never tried before rather than losing your relationship.
- Do not lose yourself in the process. When supporting your loved ones, it is very easy to train yourself both emotionally and physically without noticing. Do not neglect yourself in the process of helping others because you might eventually become inadequate for them and yourself too. Consider self-care and also seek compassion and support from other people. Depression is dangerous, and people suffering from the illness need to be handled with care.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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