Depression affects millions of individuals of various ages across the world – in the US alone, that number is 14.8 million. Due to its prevalence, it’s likely that you know a family member or friend or will someday meet someone with this condition. It may seem a daunting task to deal with someone who has depression, especially if it’s someone you love or care about greatly. You might feel frustrated, helpless, angry, or guilty, and that’s okay. Helping someone with depression is no easy task, but here are some tips that can make the process more manageable.
The first step to helping a depressed friend or family member is understanding how depression works. Granted, it’s not possible to know and comprehend everything your friend is feeling, nor is depression exactly the same in each person. There are, however, some basic things that are true across the board:
- Depression should not be taken lightly. It is definitely a serious condition that, if not addressed, can have huge repercussions. Avoid telling your friend to just “snap out of it” or to look on the bright side, as this will be very difficult if not impossible for them to do.
- It’s the depression talking. A depressed person will often say hurtful or rude things that they actually don’t mean, so don’t take things too personally if they lash out at you.
- Don’t hide the problem. If you make excuses for the depressed person and try to cover up the fact that they aren’t feeling well, you might actually be making things worse. This can indicate to your depressed friend that his/her condition is not significant and prevent him/her from seeking help.
- Their depression is not your fault, nor is it theirs. You’re not responsible for the way your loved one feels, nor is it their fault for not being strong enough. In the end, their recovery is in their own hands, not in yours, although your support and kindness will definitely help them recover faster.
Now that you have a better understanding of the workings of depression, here are some things you can do for your loved one:
- Communication is key. Let your loved one know that you care about and want to help them, and make yourself available should they need you. Offer to do their groceries for them or call them just to check up on how they’re doing (if they don’t respond, be sure to leave a voice message). For someone with depression, knowing that someone cares can make a huge difference.
- Listen. Sometimes, your loved one might just want someone to listen, and that’s enough. You don’t have to try to fix their problems, just pay attention to what they are saying and show compassion.
- Encourage them to seek help. With all the mental health stigma around these days, many people might feel embarrassed about seeking therapy or medicine for their condition, and that’s a shame. If your loved one feels uneasy about seeking professional help, you can suggest helping them find a doctor and going with them to the first visit.
- Take care of yourself. Dealing with a depressed individual can be draining, so make sure you’re not neglecting your personal needs. Set your boundaries and make sure your own life stays on track. If your loved one says something that upsets you, don’t be afraid to gently let them know how you feel. Finally, find your own group of supportive friends and family to help you help your loved one.