Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are stigmatised even today. A person going through a difficult period and suffering from depression may not exhibit their condition as openly as people expect.
When you see a friend or a loved one spiral down the path of depression, it can be upsetting to deal with that person and the situation. But the most important thing a person suffering from depression needs is support, love, and an understanding crowd.
If you’re seeing a loved one fight depression, you can play a vital part in assisting them in dealing with their situation.
Here are some of the ways you can support someone with depression.
One of the worst situations a depressed person can face is judgment from others. You cannot walk up to a person and say that depression isn’t real and it’s all in their head.
The first line of support when dealing with people suffering from mental illnesses is to educate yourself about their condition.
If you haven’t suffered yourself, it gets challenging to empathize with the other person. Therefore, you must do your homework before you decide to become someone’s support system.
Learn about depression, how it affects the person’s mental state, and the best approach to deal with a loved one.
Recognise and acknowledge the symptoms
Everyone experiences depression in their way. It can vary from different emotional states to drastic behavioral changes. For instance, depression can result from a traumatic event such as losing someone.
You can help a loved one going through depression opt for grief counselling techniques or assist them in seeking other treatment options.
The point is to mark your loved one’s experiences as symptoms of depression rather than a ‘phase’. A few classic symptoms of depression may include:
- Having less energy than usual
- Talking about suicide or death
- A dramatic change in appetite
- Fixated on past failures and feeling guilty and worthless all the time
- Feelings of frustration, emptiness, sadness, and angry outbursts
- Trouble making decisions and thinking
Carry out the ‘conversation’
Mental conditions like depression and anxiety aren’t openly discussed and are considered taboo. That’s why assertive communication and having a meaningful conversation can change someone’s life.
Effective communication about understanding the other person’s situation, acknowledging their struggles, and showing that you’re there for them can change how they currently handle depression.
As a strong support system, you must raise the subject without being judgmental and forceful. You must not go with a ‘snap out of it’ approach as it will straight away make the other person shut themselves off.
It would help if you started the conversation with caring statements like ‘I wanted to check in on you,’ ‘I noticed that you were feeling down, so I’m here for you,’ etc. once you’ve earned their trust, you can move in to ask them about their condition and what do they think about getting help.
Offer help and support
It’s unnecessary to think the end result of helping out someone with depression is seeing that person walking into therapy with a smile.
Sometimes, it’s enough to be there emotionally, physically, and mentally when that person needs you. People suffering from depression aren’t always looking for saviors, and they only sometimes need someone to tell them that it is not their fault.
You can also offer them practical help, such as providing them with everyday tasks. You can cook them a meal sometimes, offer to take them out for shopping sometimes or even help out with household chores.
If you feel that more support is needed, you may suggest obtaining an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals can ease depression, anxiety, and certain phobias by providing comfort, companionship, and support.
Encourage them to seek help
You can’t force a person suffering from depression to seek professional help. That’s why it is crucial that you only encourage them and not pressurize your loved ones to seek treatment.
It can be challenging for your loved ones to admit that they need professional help, and that’s where you can help them.
You should openly discuss their situation with them and subtly offer possible options such as support groups, therapy, or counseling.
You should also encourage them to seek medical assistance and treat their condition as something fixable if done right.
Moreover, if they’re already committed to a treatment option, encourage them to stick to it when they feel under the weather.
Identify the warning signs
As frustrating as it may sound, sometimes depression can worsen. Your loved one may be inclined to take drastic measures due to their worsening condition. So as a supportive pillar in your loved one’s life, you should look out for the warning signs, especially the risk of suicide. You must understand that people suffering from depression are at an increased risk of suicide.
Our responsibility is to look out for the signs before it’s too late. You must be vigilant when you see red flags and not delay taking action. Depression can cloud a person’s judgement, so look out when your loved one talks about harming themselves, seeking out unprescribed medication, talks about saying goodbye, exhibits self-destructive behavior.
Offer information and resources
Besides providing emotional support, you can also help your loved ones understand their condition better. Offer them information about what they feel, how they can cope with it, and what options are available medically.
Your information should reflect positivity and support regardless of your loved one’s reaction, whether acceptance or denial. You can offer them financial resources if they decide to seek professional help.
It would help a person suffering from depression know that someone is invested in their betterment by offering them practical help and ways to educate themselves on dealing with the situation.
Depression should not be dismissed as a ‘phase’ or a ‘difficult condition’. It should be treated as a disease, and the person suffering from it deserves all the support they can get.
As someone who witnessed a loved one or friend being wasted in depression, you can find help with the tips mentioned above for offering complete support to your loved one.
In the end, you must take care of your loved one and yourself and be patient as much as possible. Remember, your attitude should be encouraging, positive, hopeful, and empathic.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.