When a friend or loved one has clinical depression, of course you want to be there to support them. While offering a shoulder to cry on can be helpful, keep in mind that people who are clinically depressed have a medical condition, so giving your full support may require more than this. Here are eight things you can do to help someone with depression.
How to Help Someone with Depression
Communication Is Important
Talking to a friend or family member with depression can be tough. You may worry about upsetting your loved one or making them angry, or you may not know what to say. But communication is one of the most important things you can do to help someone with depression.
Remember that you don’t have to say the perfect thing or try to fix them—being a compassionate listener is much more important and helpful. Offer words of hope and encouragement, and be persistent. People with depression may want to withdraw from others, so gentle encouragement during conversations may be helpful. Let the person know that you are there for them.
Examples of things you might say or ask include:
“I’m here for you. You do not have to go through this alone.”
“Tell me what I can do to help you.”
“How long have you been feeling this way?”
“Have you thought about talking to a doctor?”
Look After Yourself, too
When you are learning how to help someone with depression, it can be tempting to neglect your own health and focus only on the needs of your loved one. Remember that your own well-being is important. You’ll be a better help to someone with depression if you are feeling your best. Here are four things you can do to look after yourself:
Release your own feelings. Instead of holding emotions in, find ways to communicate your feelings to some trust-worthy person in your life about your feelings in taking care of the depressed person.
Setting boundaries with someone with depression is important to prevent burnout and resentment. Bear in mind you are not a therapist or doctor so there will be things that you are not capable of doing.
Stay on track with your own life. Sometimes you may have to make some changes to your own routine when you are helping someone with depression, but remember that your own life is important, too.
Seek support. It is important that you have a support system too. Focus on seeking support for your own feelings and emotions. Talking to a counselor or clergyman to help hold yourself together.
Help Get Professional Help
Encouraging someone with depression to get help can be tough, but it is important. People with depression are often low on energy and motivation, and they may have negative patterns of thinking or believe that their situation is hopeless. The simple act of making an appointment can seem huge to a person with depression. So receiving encouragement to seek professional help is essential.
Some ideas for helping your loved one with depression to get professional help include suggesting a visit to their regular physician for a check-up, offering to help your loved one find a therapist and going with them to the first appointment, and suggesting that the person with depression make a list of their symptoms to discuss at the appointment. For someone with depression, admitting that they have a problem and understanding that it can be treated is an important first step in making a full recovery.
Make Sure Medications are Taken as Instructed
When you are learning how to help someone with depression, know that antidepressant medications may help your loved one feel better. These medications change the way that neurotransmitters are made or used in the brain to soothe or even cure depression.
Antidepressants are categorized based on which neurotransmitter they affect. The four main types are SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, and tricyclics. Your loved one’s psychiatrist may have them try several different medications until they find the right one, or they may need to add an antipsychotic medication, such as ariprazole, quetiapine, or risperidone. Antidepressant medications do have side effects, so help your loved one monitor these and encourage him or her to discuss them with the doctor.
Encourage Someone with Depression to be Patient
Remind your friend or family member that treatment for depression doesn’t work overnight, and encourage them to be patient. Both antidepressant medications and counseling usually require several months to take full effect.
Spread the Word
Remember that you can’t be the only source of support for your friend or family member with depression. Ask your loved one for permission to talk with the other people in his or her life, but remember to always respect privacy. Talking with others will gather support for your loved one, give you new perspectives on the situation, and help you feel less alone.
Companionship Really Helps a Lot
If you are still wondering how to help someone with depression, know that companionship helps a lot. If you do not live very close to each other, stay in touch with your loved one by writing letters, visiting them at home at times, or getting some sunshine together to raise vitamin D levels, which improves mood.
When you are spending time with your loved one with depression, remember to be encouraging. Make a point to acknowledge even small achievements. When you are helping someone with depression, often it is the small things that matter most, such as doing regular activities together, assisting them with housework, or just offering a warm hug.
Introduce Your Loved One to New Activities
Sometimes distraction can be very helpful for people with depression. Encouraging your loved one to take on new interests might help them to focus on something besides their depressed thoughts and feelings. Some ideas for activities include choosing a book to read together with a positive or inspiring message, bringing over a movie to watch, or suggesting that you and your friend make some artwork together. Artistic expression, such as drawing, painting, or writing, can also be quite therapeutic for someone with depression.