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Depression can make people feel isolated and alone, causing them to withdraw and lose interest in things they usually enjoy. No one ever wants to see someone they love hurting. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from depression, it can be helpful to learn the signs to watch out for and ways to offer support.
What is depression?
Depression is a mental illness that can cause a person to feel persistently sad or low, have reduced energy levels and motivation, experience changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and concentration, and feel worthless or hopeless. Depression is more than just feeling down for a few days – it can last weeks, months, or even years if left untreated. In severe cases, it can lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts.
It’s estimated that 21 million Americans suffer from depression each year and it can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender.
How do I know if my loved one is depressed?
There are many signs that can indicate when someone is depressed. If your loved one is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it’s crucial to have a conversation with them about how they’re feeling:
- Seeming persistently sad, down, or empty
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Experiencing fatigue or low energy levels
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or helpless
- Change in appetite
- Talking about death or suicide frequently
If you notice any of these symptoms, there is a good chance your loved one is dealing with depression. It’s important to approach the conversation in a caring and non-judgmental way, letting them know that you’re there for them and want to help.
What can I do to support my loved one through depression?
If your loved one is living with depression, it’s very likely they won’t be receptive to your help – at least not initially. It’s essential to be patient and understand that they are probably feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and helpless.
Here are seven ways you can support your loved one through their depression:
Educate yourself about depression
Having an understanding of what your loved one is going through can be very helpful. Educating yourself can provide a better foundation for offering support because you’ll know what to expect and how to best communicate with them.
It can also be helpful to read about depression together, as this can provide a starting point for discussion and help your loved one feel less alone.
Listen to them
Often, the best thing you can do for someone with depression is to simply listen. This can be a difficult task when you want to “fix” the problem, but it’s important to resist the urge to offer solutions and let them express how they’re feeling.
Validating their feelings and letting them know you understand what they’re going through can be very helpful.
Offer practical help
Sometimes the simplest things can make a world of difference. If your loved one is struggling to keep up with everyday tasks, offer to help out where you can. Whether it’s doing some grocery shopping, taking the dog for a walk, or just hanging out with them without expectations. Anything you can do to lighten their load will be appreciated.
Encourage them to seek professional help
If your loved one is open to the idea, encourage them to seek professional help. This can be a big step for someone living with depression, but it’s often very beneficial. A therapist can provide tools and support that can help your loved one manage their depression in a healthy way.
Therapy can be expensive, as can medications. Not everyone has access to the same resources; help your friend or family member locate and secure the necessary resources – like setting up an appointment at the local aid office so they can get Medicaid.
There are online options for therapy now, too, and those can be more accessible. Some places even have financial aid programs available, but if someone is dealing with depression, it can be difficult to navigate the red tape. Offering to help is a beautiful way to support the person you care about.
Support their treatment
If your loved one is already seeing a therapist, offer to go with them to their appointments or be there for them after appointments. This can provide some much-needed moral support and ensure they’re staying on track with their treatment.
Depression can be a long and challenging road to recovery. There will be good days and bad days, and sometimes it can feel like things are never going to get better. It’s important to be patient and remind your loved ones that you’re there for them, no matter what. Helping your loved one through their depression is a marathon, not a sprint.
Take care of yourself, too
It’s important to remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one. Make sure to schedule time for yourself, whether it’s taking a yoga class, going for a walk, or reading a good book.
Taking care of your own mental health will help you be better equipped to support your loved one through their depression.
What do I do if my loved one’s depression gets worse?
If your loved one’s depression is getting worse, it’s vital to seek professional help right away. Depression can be a serious condition and if left untreated, it can lead to severe consequences, including suicide. If you’re worried about your loved one, please don’t hesitate to call their doctor or a mental health hotline.
What are some warning signs that someone is considering suicide?
There are many warning signs that someone might be considering suicide. If you notice any of the following, it’s important to take them seriously and seek professional help right away:
- Talking about wanting to die or hurt themselves
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
- Withdrawing from friends and activities
- Abnormal mood swings
- Giving away prized possessions
- Putting affairs in order
If you are worried that someone might be considering suicide, the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Asking them directly if they are thinking about suicide will not make them more likely to attempt it. In fact, it can provide an opportunity for them to express what they’re feeling and get the help they need.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
For more information on suicide prevention, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Will my loved one recover from their depression?
Depression can be a complex condition to live with, both for the person who is experiencing it and for their loved ones. But there is hope. With treatment and support, most people who experience depression will recover. It’s essential to be patient and supportive throughout the process – your loved one will appreciate everything you do to help them get through this tough time.
I am in no way a therapist, I am simply sharing what worked for me.
5 responses to “7 Ways to Support A Loved One with Depression”
I suffer from depression and my support system is 100% needed. It helps to have people around you who understand!
Thanks for this article, it’s very helpful. I have family members with depression, and I’ve struggled with it too. It’s hard to know what to do for others, so these tips are good to know.
Your suggestions are very simple but so valuable. I really appreciate that your article focuses on supporting a depressed person instead of trying to heal her/they/him.
This is such a helpful conversation to have and open up. I feel like so many times throughout my life people have just known what to do with me or how to be there for me. And when I’m in the thick of clinical depression, it’s really hard to articulate what I need. Will definitely be sharing this one!
I think educating yourself about depression is key in being supportive! good article.