Assisting someone who is suffering from depression can be challenging. Sometimes, it can leave you feeling helpless and uncertain about how to help. Whether it’s you or someone you care about, understanding how to provide support and access vital resources is crucial.
The more you know about depression, how it impacts people, and how it can be treated, the better you will be able to help someone struggling with the condition.
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or a lack of interest in enjoyable activities. Some people with clinical depression have severe impairments and cannot engage in their usual activities.
A major depressive episode is diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by meeting the following criteria:
A period of at least two weeks during which a person has a low mood or has lost interest in daily activities and exhibits a majority of defined symptoms, such as low self-worth, weight loss, and difficulty sleeping.
Recent figures from the National Institute of Mental Health suggest that depression affects 8.4% or 21 million U.S. adults.
Supporting Your Loved One Through Different Phases of Depression
If you care about a depressed friend or family member, you may be going through a range of difficult emotions, such as helplessness, frustration, fear, guilt, anger, and sadness. These emotions are very normal and are not signs of personal flaws.
Knowing what to say to a depressed loved one can be challenging. Remember that while the tips below might serve as a starting point, the best way to support a friend or a family member is to have an honest conversation with them and find out what they need.
Initial Phase: Acknowledging the Struggle
People struggling with mental illness may feel ashamed or concerned about how their peers will react if they disclose their struggles. Hopelessness is a terrible feeling; sometimes they think they’re in a downward spiral with no way out. However, when people acknowledge their struggle, they also acknowledge that this is just their present state and does not define who they are as a person.
Their troubles lose their power when they are willing to share them with others. Most often, the act of admitting one’s helplessness is the first step toward receiving help and making healthy choices.
On that note, showing compassion is important as your loved one becomes vulnerable in sharing their struggles with depression.
Encouraging Open Communication
Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings and struggles in a safe environment without judgment. Pay attention to what they say without arguing and validate their experiences. Open communication allows for mutual trust, understanding, empathy, and cooperation.
Active Listening and Empathy
When you listen with empathy, you can put yourself in your loved one’s position and experience the emotions they describe. With active listening, you are being attentive with your eyes, ears, and heart and trying to view the world from their perspective.
Active listening also offers a safe space where your loved one can process their complicated feelings.
When you come across someone who goes through depression, here are some ways that you can demonstrate active listening and empathy for them:
Concentrate on expressing empathy rather than trying to change the other person or their mindset.
Slow down while you talk and listen. When you are under pressure, your speech and gestures become more rapid. Allow the person before you sufficient time to share their thoughts and feelings.
Maintain a calm and relaxed posture. Remain close enough to demonstrate your concern, but refrain from physical contact unless permitted.
Treatment Phase: Seeking Professional Help
When mental issues persist for weeks and interfere with everyday life, it may be time to seek professional help. It’s possible that your family member or friend doesn’t know where to turn for help or is confused about what kind of professional assistance is out there. It can be intimidating to visit a health professional, even if they are aware of the available resources. Setting up an appointment with a health care professional, who will either examine or direct them to a mental health provider, is the initial step to looking for support.
Researching Mental Health Professionals
You can find a mental health professional by asking your general practitioner for a recommendation, asking your friends or family members, or even looking up therapists in your local area online. Consult with various professionals in the field of mental health, including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors. Of these, only a psychiatrist is qualified to provide prescriptions for medication.
Medication and counseling are two options for treating depression symptoms. In certain instances, symptoms improve after starting treatment, especially when medication and counseling are prescribed together.
It is also important to learn as much as you can about mental health and depression and share them with your family and friends. As a result, you can better understand and empathize with others going through difficult times with less stigma.
Accompanying Your Loved One to Mental Health Appointments
Making an appointment for the person suffering from depression on their behalf is yet another method of encouraging treatment, but this should only be done at their request. In addition to this, it may be helpful to accompany them to their appointments. Your understanding and compassion may help to initiate or encourage their healing process.
Furthermore, your loved one may feel too ashamed or unsure to discuss their symptoms with a mental health provider, and you may be able to do so on their behalf. When they are given a diagnosis or treatment options, it can be helpful for them to have someone they trust to help them process the information, especially if it is overwhelming or frustrating. You can also keep track of their medical history, treatment methods, and the next doctor’s appointment.
Recovery Phase: Fostering Resilience and Well-being
Fostering resilience can improve one’s well-being and develop one’s ability to deal with future challenges. To be resilient does not mean one is immune to adversity, stress, or pain. It means one can bounce back after working through emotional pain and suffering.
For people with severe depression, restoring positive behavior, mood, and well-being is the most vital outcome of treatment. Resilience, as applied to the context of depression, is a combination of intrinsic (such as self-esteem and behavior) and extrinsic factors (such as resources and social support) that:
promote an earlier or effective recovery
reduce the severity of illness
reduce the risk of relapse
It’s worth emphasizing that resilience is a skill that can be developed over time. Your loved one may need time, strength, and support to develop resilience.
Establishing Healthy Habits and Routines
Learning to form healthy habits and routines that can be maintained over time is important to treating depression. Below are some examples of healthy habits and routines:
Encourage your loved one to maintain regular eating, sleeping schedules, and physical activity. Building a routine is a fantastic way to infuse structure into their daily life. For instance, they may run in the morning before school or work. You may also help them organize household chores or suggest specific tasks, such as hobbies or other activities they enjoy.
Keeping a journal has also been shown to have several positive effects. Expressive writing, or journaling, has been shown to alleviate ruminating and depressive symptoms. It is recommended by several experts in the field of mental health as a method to fight depression.
Spending time outdoors can increase the release of neurotransmitters that help regulate mood. It can help your loved ones feel better physically, mentally, and spiritually. This could mean hiking, reading a book in the park, or strolling.
Taking things at a slower pace and concentrating on the present moment might be challenging. However, research suggests that mindfulness meditation can help lessen the effects of depression.
Depression can drain your loved one’s energy, making it hard to get out of bed. Offering gentle support, like encouraging regular showers or baths, can foster positive habits and improve their mood. Your understanding and empathy play a vital role in their healing journey.
According to another study, music therapy can be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression. Since music has such a powerful effect on emotions, try playing some upbeat songs for them to sing along to.
The tendency to dwell on negative thoughts can easily develop into a habit. However, it’s important to recognize that negative thought patterns can contribute to depression. It has been suggested by research that practicing gratitude can help alleviate depression and boost feelings of satisfaction.
Encourage your loved one to begin slowly by picking one or two small tasks that they can easily commit to performing regularly. That way, they may gradually establish those specific tasks as part of their routine. The point is establishing a regimen they can follow even on difficult days.
Nurturing Social Activities
Social activities are one of the most significant methods for enhancing one’s mental health. As social beings, we are all dependent on having meaningful relationships. It eliminates feelings of isolation, which can worsen depression.
People are better able to deal with stress when they have social support. Being surrounded by family and close friends who are loving and supportive helps them feel better about themselves and helps them deal with stress.
Social activities can be as simple as walking with friends or meeting for coffee. You may also encourage them to explore their interests and try something new, such as meeting new people at community events or volunteering in an organization. They can also step out of their comfort zone and accept social invitations like going to a book club or a game night. They may create a basketball team or attend an exercise class.
It’s important to note that your loved ones should surround themselves with sober people who will help them on their healing journey; and who will help them feel valued and respected. It would also be helpful if these people were engaged in healthy habits and activities.
Individuals with mental health issues often struggle to manage their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. These changes may affect their ability to speak, learn, and form relationships. In addition, the whole family can be affected by that person’s medical condition.
If your friend or family member struggles with mental illness, offering love and support as they go through this difficult time is important. With a strong social support system, your loved one can increase their self-esteem and ability to handle challenges. Remind them about their positive qualities and how much they mean to you and others. Having friends and family who believe in them can encourage them to take the necessary steps to manage depression.
The first step is for them to acknowledge that they need help. Approach them compassionately and gently and offer a listening ear. Keep an open mind and clarify that you’re interested in hearing all their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. However, don’t provide suggestions or judgments. The simple acts of hearing and being understood can go a long way toward healing.
Once your loved one acknowledges the need for medical support and depression treatment, let them understand that help from medical specialists early on can be beneficial. You can demonstrate your willingness to help by making appointments for them, accompanying them to their check-ups, and attending family therapy sessions.
Help Your Loved One with Depression at Lucid Wellness Center
If you or your loved one is struggling with depression or mental health issues, consider reaching out to Lucid Wellness Center. Their compassionate team and professional services can provide the support and guidance needed to navigate through challenging times and promote overall well-being. Remember, seeking help is a courageous step towards healing; you don’t have to go through it alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best ways of showing understanding and empathy towards people with depression?
Put yourself in your loved one’s situation without passing judgment. Consider how you would feel if you were experiencing depression and how you would like others to respond. Make direct eye contact and use phrases like “I’m always here for you” when listening. By responding honestly and emphatically, you can reassure them that you value them without making them feel like a burden.
When is it appropriate to suggest professional help for people with depression?
If your loved one has been feeling depressed for over two weeks, or if it seriously interferes with their ability to function at work and in relationships, or if they contemplate or plan suicide, it is strongly recommended that you suggest seeking professional help as soon as possible.
What are some tips for navigating difficult conversations with someone who has depression?
When you create a safe and non-judgmental environment, your loved one feels that you are a trustworthy person they can be vulnerable to. Make an extra effort to be open and patient while they pour out challenging emotions. When you actively listen, they will learn that you value them. It allows them to be comfortable and free to talk about the most intimate details of their struggles.
How often should I check in on my loved one with depression, and how Will I know if they need more support than usual?
You may check in on your loved one occasionally, perhaps once or twice a week, but not to the point you seem pushy. You may ask them about topics aside from depression, such as their jobs or partners. This will light up their mood and show them that you care.
You can tell if they need more support than usual if they manifest warning signs of worsening depressive symptoms, such as withdrawal from people, changes in hygiene and sleeping patterns, and statements about suicide.
Are there any other resources available besides therapy or medication that could help a person cope better with their symptoms of depression?
In addition to therapy and medication, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is an innovative approach that helps manage depression. TMS is a noninvasive therapy that activates the brain using magnetic pulses. These shifts in brain activity may help reduce depression and other mental health disorders.
TMS therapy is among the most effective therapies for depression. At Lucid Wellness Center in Los Angeles, people with depression can find hope and healing through TMS therapy. Get in touch with us to know more about the scope of our services.