Considering that the symptoms of depression are mostly invisible, understanding depression—and knowing how to help someone who is struggling with the condition—is a real challenge. You walk on eggshells. You offer advice. Maybe you choose to say nothing at all. The fact of the matter is, however, it’s important for us to know how to help (or not help) someone suffering from depression. After all, more than 17 million Americans carry the diagnosis of clinical depression…
Understanding depression begins by understanding the symptoms that people experience, and the depression challenges that they face every day. Crushing sadness, fatigue, irrational thinking, poor sleep habits. Irritability, anxiety. The perpetual feeling that they are a burden to the people they love.
People who suffer from depression live in a different world, one that is governed by a different set of social and emotional rules. Understanding those rules is crucial to being able to help our depressed family and friends. Here are six ways to support a depressed family member, friend or loved one:
1. Just be there. Listen, but don’t offer advice. Let them cry. Make sure they know how important they are to you by asking how you can help, and offering endless love and support.
2. Don’t minimize their depression. “Look at the bright side” or “don’t let things get to you” may be good advice for some people, but for those suffering from depression, this advice lands heavy on the heart. Depression strips people of the ability to choose how to feel—they biologically cannot choose to feel happy, or change their perspective.
3. Tough love is ineffective. This approach is just hurtful, and do more harm than good. Remember that depression is a disease. You wouldn’t take a tough love approach to someone diagnosed with cancer.
4. Be empathetic, not sympathetic. Unless you also suffer from depression, you do not know how your depressed loved one feels. Show empathy, not sympathy.
5. Support their treatment regimen. Whatever your personal stance is on antidepressant medications or talk therapy, keep it to yourself. Encourage your friend or loved one to seek out whatever treatments offer the potential for relief. If your friend is struggling to find a treatment that works, help them seek out innovative therapies, such as ketamine for depression, or other emerging therapies.
6. Be patient. Knowing that you will be there for them through thick and thin, for as long as it takes for them to recover, means the world to a depressed patient.
Depression is a serious and debilitating mental health condition, but understanding depression—and the common depression challenges that come along with this diagnosis—can help you step up and support your suffering loved ones in the most effective way possible.
You may not be able to fix their depression, but you can surely be there to show your support and love.
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