HOW TO SUPPORT A LOVED ONE WITH DEPRESSION
For loved ones, caring for someone with depression can be very difficult and emotionally taxing. It can be hard to know how to respond to low and frequently changing moods, and withdrawal from friends and family. Whether you are a parent, a partner or a friend, seeing someone you love struggle with depression, lose interest in their favourite activities and start to act less and less like themselves can be upsetting, confusing and even angering at times.
Family and friends of someone with depression often feel at a loss. What can they do to fix this? How can they make their loved one feel better? Often times the symptoms don’t appear to make any sense and can be frustrating. Parents may blame themselves, partners may feel isolated in the relationship and friends can feel cut off and unwanted.
What can a carer or support person do in this situation?
1. Resist the urge to tell someone with depression to “get over it”
It can appear to people on the outside of the mental illness that their loved one would benefit from “just snapping out of it.” It can be hard to understand why the depressed person continues to act and think the way they do when you feel as if there are other options. You just want the best for that person and you can see that the best thing would be for them to not feel that way anymore.
However, it is important to keep in mind that someone with depression may feel badly about themselves and their inability to “just get better,” so it’s best not to make them feel as if they are letting you down.
Validate how they are feeling
What you can do is listen to your loved one. How are they feeling? What’s going on in their mind? Are they worried about something? Show your loved one that you understand by acknowledging their experience. You could say something like, “today sounds like it was really hard for you.” This would show that you understand their experience and help them to feel less alone.
Do things together – be a distraction
Oftentimes people suffering from depression may stop doing things they had previously enjoyed and may start to spend more time on their own. While it is important not to become too pushy and overbearing, it can be helpful to encourage your loved one to join you on activities such as going for a walk or a day trip out with family and friends. Distraction, relaxation and fun are a great way to improve both you and your loved one’s mood.
Look after yourself – know when you need some time out
You cannot care and support others if you don’t have care and support for yourself. Notice when you have reached your limit. Are you feeling a bit snappy, run down or exhausted? If so, it’s time for you to do some things for yourself. Spend time with friends, talk with someone you trust, get some exercise, get back into a hobby you love and make the time for you to relax. You are important too!
Encourage your loved one to access professional support
Your role as a support person is vital in helping your loved one recover from depression. However, the responsibility should not fall completely on your shoulders. A professional will be able to provide your loved one with depression counselling and the support they need to move forward on their path to recovery.