Depression is a chronic illness that affects millions of people worldwide. In the United States alone, 20 million people suffer from this disease according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There may be someone close to you passing through this difficult phase of life. So it is better to know how to deal with a person with depression to maximizes his/her chances of living again a healthy life.
What is Depression?
It is a mental disorder characterized by persistent sadness and apathy. It affects how you feel, think and act. It is normal to feel sad or anxious when faced with difficult life events such as loss of job, breakup, or death of a loved one but these feelings fade away after the situation gets better. If you are suffering from depression, you feel sad or anxious even when your life is going perfectly fine. You may stop doing things you like and distance yourself from friends and family members.
People with depression might also harm themselves physically, thinking that they deserve to be punished for something they did in the past. It is not a permanent state of mind: it comes and goes like any other feeling. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw, it is a real medical illness. Treatment can help you to manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.
If you have a friend or family member going through depression, you also know how difficult it can be to help them through it because their negative thinking and behavior get in the way of them getting treated.
So the question arises how can you help someone with depression? What should you do to make things better for your friend or family member in depression? Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with someone with depression:
Don’t judge Person in Depression
Someone going through depression already feels bad about themselves and their situation. You might even think they could ‘snap out of it if they tried harder. But, remember that depression is a sickness and your loved one can’t just ‘turn off their feelings without help. Don’t be judgmental and give them the support they need.
Depression requires professional treatment because self-medication and pulling yourself out of it on your own doesn’t usually work. A therapist or psychiatrist can help them find better-coping skills and healthy ways to cope with stress. Encourage the person you care about to seek treatment for their depression if they haven’t already done so.
Offer Open-ended Support
Someone with depression may accept your support, but may not be able to return it when they’re in the midst of their depressive episode. That’s normal because depression interrupts daily life and regular social interactions. Don’t expect them to pick up the phone, but be available if they do decide to call or reach out for help with something.
Go To Therapy With Them
If possible, go to therapy with your loved one if they’re having trouble finding the motivation to get treatment. Therapy gets easier when you have someone you trust there to help. It can also boost their mood knowing they have a supportive friend or family member with them during therapy.
Do Something Together
If your friend or family member is too down in the dumps, ask if they’d like to do something with you that focuses on having fun. Book a comedy night or play bingo together. Doing something lighthearted once in a while can help break up their depressive episode and give them hope for the future.
Encourage Healthy Habits
Someone suffering from depression may have stopped focusing on their physical health so try encouraging them to work out and eat healthily or go for a walk with you. If they resist your encouragement, don’t force it; just let them know that you’re there if they want to join you for some physical activity.
Someone suffering from depression may be irritable and short-tempered so try staying calm even when they lash out at you. They’re not trying to hurt your feelings; it’s just that bad moods and negative thoughts run wild during depressive episodes. Try to be patient until they seek help or their mood starts to turn around.
Be There For Them
The best way to help someone with depression is to simply be there for them if they ever need someone to talk to. The sad truth is that many people don’t seek help for their depression until something bad happens in their life, so you want to be there even when they’re feeling okay.
What if my loved one with depression doesn’t want my support?
Not everyone suffering from depression wants the same things out of life. If your friend or relative isn’t interested in talking about it, don’t push them. They may not be ready to talk about the way they feel, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want your support.
You can still say something like “I’m here for you if you ever need someone to listen or just hang out”.
Encourage them to get professional help. A therapist or psychiatrist can teach your loved ones new ways of coping with stress and negative emotions so they don’t have to rely on drugs or alcohol. It may take a while for some people to seek help, but it’s important that you stick around and support them even when they’re feeling down.
What if my loved one with depression is suicidal?
If you suspect that your loved one is suicidal, seek help immediately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (For USA) at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 for emergency assistance.
While the thought of suicide may seem selfish to you as their friend or relative, it’s important to understand that your loved one is suffering and doesn’t know how to cope with it. If you’re hesitant about getting them help, remember that depression can cause irrational thinking and suicide may seem like the only option in their mind.
They might feel helpless or ashamed because they have hurt family members in the past when they were experiencing a depressive episode, so it’s important to be compassionate when talking to them. Be prepared for some resistance because they might not be ready to seek help or have trust that their therapist will be able to help them.
A therapist can teach your loved ones how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions in healthy ways so they don’t feel the need to resort to drinking, drugs, or self-harm.
What if my loved one doesn’t want to talk about depression?
It’s hard to watch your loved ones suffer in silence, but you can’t force them to open up about their feelings. If they’re not ready to talk about the way they feel, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want your support.
Try asking them simple questions like “Do you want to talk about what’s going on?” or “Do you feel like hurting yourself?”. They might resist your initial attempts to help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want your support; it just means that they’re in a state of denial about their feelings. Just keep the lines of communication open with them, but don’t push them to talk about it if they’re not ready.
It’s okay if they say “I’m fine.” or “Yes.” because at least you know they heard you and are willing to consider the options available to them. You can also ask them what makes them feel better when they’re struggling because it may provide a useful clue as to how they can overcome depressive episodes.
What if I don’t know how to help?
If you’re not sure what your loved one needs, try asking them questions like “How can I support you?” or “What do you need right now?”. Try to avoid giving advice unless they specifically ask you for it because they’re the only ones who know how they feel.
When people are depressed, they tend to isolate themselves so it’s important that you keep them company even when they don’t seem like the best company. You could also help them find a therapist or psychiatrist if their depression has affected their ability to function normally.
What if my loved one with depression is more of a loner?
Depression is isolating, but that doesn’t mean your loved one has to be alone during their depressive episodes. You can invite them to hang out with you and your friends or offer to watch their favorite movie again. Depression makes people feel worthless, so showing them love and support can go a long way.
If your loved one is a loner and prefers takeout over the company, buy them their favorite meal to cheer them up. Send supportive texts throughout the day or ask if they need to talk about anything that’s going on in their life. Try not to be offended if they don’t text you back because most depressed people don’t respond to texts or emails.
What if my loved one only trusts me?
Your loved ones might feel the safest opening up to you because they know you’ll continue loving them despite their most severe depressive episodes. If they’re less emotionally stable, let them know that it’s okay if they don’t want to talk about their feelings and give them a big hug.
If your loved one trusts you, try asking them what they need so you can help them feel better without pushing them to open up about their depression if they’re not ready. If you’re an introvert, it’s important that you take time for yourself during depressive episodes because depression can drain your energy reserves.
If you’re an introvert, your loved one probably appreciates the time you spend with them in silence because they don’t feel pressured to talk about their feelings. Your presence is enough to make them feel safe and secure when they open up about their depression.
You know your loved one better than anyone, so it’s important to make sure you’re there for them during their depressive episodes. It can be difficult to find the right words or offer appropriate support, but with some time and effort, you’ll learn how best to help your loved one through this rough patch in their life.
If they need someone to talk to about what’s on their mind, try asking open-ended questions like “What are you feeling?” or “How do these feelings affect your day-to-day activities?” You could also ask them if they want company when they go out or invite them over for dinner so that you can spend time together without pressure.
Depression affects people differently, so understanding where your loved one is coming from can help you support them. If they don’t want to open up about their feelings, make sure you spend time with them and give them a hug when they need it most.
It’s okay if your loved one doesn’t text or call often because depression can prevent people from doing the things that used to bring them joy. Your presence is enough to make them feel safe and secure so don’t give up on your loved ones just because it seems like they don’t want help.