So many of us living with depression are used to being dismissed by society and medical practitioners alike.
Yet, roughly five percent of adults will suffer from clinical depression at some point in our lives. And that’s just the recorded statistics.
Who knows how many more live with and suffer through depression without seeking medical intervention?
But giving something as simple as support to a loved one with depression can play a very important role in their recovery.
So, here are some simple ways you can support a friend or family member with depression.
1. Educate yourself
The best and possibly the first thing you can do is to educate yourself.
Go online, speak to others, or even reach out to charities to learn more about the condition. Regular ups and downs happen in life, but depression is something entirely different.
It’s far more than feeling sad, and quite often you have to have been there to truly understand the depths depression can go to.
It can be difficult for outsiders to determine a depressive episode from general lows.
Those of us suffering from mental health difficulties often feel ashamed to admit it, and instead we try to hide it until we simply can’t anymore.
While not everyone experiences depression in the same way, here are some general signs to watch out for.
They appear more down, tearful, and/or easily irritated more often than usual.
Their keep unusual sleeping patterns such as sleeping too much or have difficultly sleeping.
They are beginning to miss a lot of school, work or activities they normal attend.
They don’t want to hangout anymore or they cancel at the last minute more than usual.
Their eating habits have changed i.e eating a lot more or less than is considered normal for them.
They’ve started to indulge in alcohol, or substances more than usual.
Listen to how they talk about life and themselves. They may mention feeling empty, worthless or exhausted.
They are generally more pessimistic and hopeless.
Of course this isn’t an exhausted list. Many people act differently when they’re depressed. Some may be adapt at hiding it, therefore making it harder to spot.
Some of the above may also just be normal activity for your loved one.
2. Don’t dismiss their feelings
When we open up about our thoughts and feelings, make the effort to listen fully. Avoid any predetermined judgements, and try to empathise.
It isn’t possible to just ‘snap out of’ a depressive episode, much like you can’t simple ‘get over’ a broken limb!
If you’re not sure how to validate them or show compassion, ask. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re lost, instead ask for guidance from those going through it.
They may not be able to tell you exactly what to do in order to help, but I can guarantee that ‘just listening’ is a good start.
3. Encourage them to reach out for professional help
No matter the illness, it’s important to seek out professional help. This can be from a general practitioner, a therapist or counsellor. It may even be a combination.
Even if your loved one has you to talk to, you can’t replace professional help. They may need medication, CBT or something else which you’re not qualified to supply.
Your friend may not be aware of the help available to them, or they may be reluctant to seek help. This is where you come in.
Use the knowledge from your time spent learning about the condition, and reach out to any support systems mentioned.
Chances are you’ll have come across quite a few. If you speak to a local charity they’ll also help point you and your friend in the right direction.
Here are some charities within the UK which may be able to provide advice and support. For those not within the UK, here’s a list of international services created by The Calm Zone.
4. Encourage and support them in their day-to-day routine
When you’re suffering from depression even the most simple of tasks can become overwhelming.
Personally speaking, when I’m struggling with a depressive episode I find it difficult to get out bed, brush my teeth and feed myself adequately.
Every step feels like I’m carrying a weight on my shoulders, and it’s pushing me further and further into the ground. It just becomes easier to curl up beneath the blankets, switch off my phone and sleep.
If you’re able to, why not offer to help them with simple, every day tasks like cleaning, making dinner, laundry and grocery shopping? Or you can encourage your loved one to step outside and take a walk.
So, trying to implement even a ten minutes of exercise can make a big difference over time!
5. Celebrate their small achievements
When you’re struggling, it becomes difficult to see the positives and recognise your own achievements.
Any progress or improvement you make both with your mental health and other areas of your life become overshadowed.
In order to combat this and remind them of their successes, be sure to congratulate them on even the smallest of achievements.
They attend therapy to day even when it was a struggle for them to leave the house? Amazing! Cooked dinner for themselves? Well done! It’s all about helping them to feel proud of themselves no matter how small the achievement.
6. Help them make a plan for relapse
Relapse is inevitable in regard to depression. It’s a chronic illness with symptoms that can ebb and flow periodically, and sometimes it needs intervention.
My own depression is largely managed by a mixture of medication and self-monitoring.
When I begin to feel things dipping, I have to consciously step back and slow down, both in life and online.
There may also be the need for support from my husband, general practitioner and, on occasion, a therapist. And that’s just how it goes.
Much like living with a physical chronic illness, living with a mental illness is a full time job.
You, alongside your loved one, need to accept that there will be ups and downs.
It’s a good idea to sit down together and come up with a plan to manage any relapses.
Start by writing down any symptoms to look out for that are personal to your love one, along side any known triggers, and responses they find helpful.
7. Remember to look after yourself
It’s scary to watch someone you love experience depression, or any mental distress for that matter.
While it’s fantastic that you’re there for your loved one, it’s also paramount that you look out for your own mental and physical health too.
After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you look after yourself and create your own support network, you’ll be better prepared to help them.
Not sure how to start? Here are some ideas.
Monitor your own mood. While you may be worried for your loved one, it’s important that you take stock of how you are feeling too.
Don't give up the things you enjoy. Make plenty of time to do the things that make you happy, calm or relaxed. You could even share these with your loved one!
Make time to relax. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure it’s at least mid-way full.
Ask for support for yourself.
About the Author
This post was written by Chloe from Nyxie’s Nook!
Chloe is a fantastic mental health and lifestyle blogger. They write about everything from wellbeing and eating disorder recovery to book reviews and self-care.
Can you think of any other ways you can help a loved one with depression? Let us know in the comments!
Love, Sarah xoxo