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Affecting millions of individuals across the globe, depression is a serious yet treatment disorder. It can quickly get in the way of everyday life, inflicting tremendous pain and hurting those experiencing it and everyone else around them.

If someone you hold dear is struggling with depression, you may likely be experiencing multiple difficult emotions yourself, such as anger, guilt, frustration, or sadness. Remember that these feelings are normal since supporting someone with depression is difficult.

That said, your support and companionship are incredibly crucial for your loved one’s recovery. You can help them cope with their symptoms, overcome negative thought patterns, regain energy, and even claim their life back. But how can you make this happen?

This article will help you learn how to help someone with depression in the best possible way without compromising your health.

Friends and family often serve as the first line of defence against depression. This is why they must understand and familiarise themselves with the common depression symptoms and manifestations. With this knowledge, you can notice the problem in a loved one way before they do and raise concerns to seek timely help.

Be concerned if your family member or a friend: 

  • Does not care about anything anymore. Depression may make them lose interest in work, academics, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. They may withdraw from family members and friends and stop showing up at social events.
  • Maintains a negative outlook on life by being critical, short-tempered, irritable, sad, moody, or hopeless.
  • Frequently complains of pains like back pain, headaches, stomach problems, and back pain. They may also express how they feel drained or exhausted all the time.
  • Is sleeping too little or too less? These altered sleep habits may make them forgetful, indecisive, and disorganised.
  • Has started eating unusually, more or less, leading to a recent gain or loss in body weight.
  • Has started drinking or abusing drugs. These drugs may include painkillers and sleeping pills to self-medicate and feel better.

Depression is a potentially debilitating disease, and recovering from it can seem daunting since the process is long and often challenging. However, with the following tips, you can quickly learn how to help a friend with depression and maximise their chances of living a healthy life.

Offer them help with daily tasks

The effects of depression are so debilitating that it may make everyday tasks, like cooking, cleaning, or grocery shopping, feel impossible. So if you see your loved one struggling to manage their chores, help in more minor ways, such as:

  • Offering to take walks together a few times a week
  • Offering help around the house
  • Coming over on the weekend to cook together
  • Lending a hand in weekly grocery runs

Practice compassionate listening

If your friend internalises emotions, they may feel overwhelmed as you share your concerns about their possible symptoms of depression. If you see this happening, practising compassionate listening is best. Remember that your friend’s depression is not for you to fix, but you can contribute to their recovery by being with them and listening to them talk about their feelings. Consider using phrases like:

  • You are not alone in this
  • I am here for you
  • Tell me what I can do to help
  • I may not understand what you are feeling right now, but I want to help you
  • At the same time, avoid using sentences like:
  • This is just a phase, and it will pass
  • Snap out of it
  • Everyone seems to feel depressed from time to time
  • Think about all the amazing things in your life
  • Why can’t you focus on the positives?
  • The more you think about it, the worse it will become

In some cases, sitting in silence and using nonverbal cues, such as a warm hug or a supportive hand on their shoulders, can be more helpful than any words.

Remind yourself that it’s not personal

Depression can quickly impair the social skills of the afflicted individual. They may suddenly become shy, angry, sullen, and withdrawn. On the receiving end of a depression-led outburst, you must remind yourself that these emotions are temporary and have nothing to do with you. You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When you notice your loved one slowly pulling away from you because of depression, it may be difficult not to take it personally, especially if you are in an intimate relationship with them. Some people may also feel rejected or worry that their partner does not love them anymore while they are only being socially distant because of their psychiatric illness. Remember that social isolation is a classic symptom of depression and has nothing to do with you.

Encourage them to get treatment and support them throughout

Depression hardly gets better without treatment and may worsen with time if nothing is done. Research has shown that cognitive therapy and antidepressant medication have effectively managed the symptoms of this illness. That said, it can be challenging to convince a person with depression to seek treatment, especially when they do not acknowledge their diagnosis. To encourage them to seek professional help, consider the following talking points:

  • Provide whatever help your loved one requires and is willing to accept. For example, you may make appointments on their behalf, research the available treatment options, and find the best therapists for them.
  • Have realistic expectations with the treatment. Watching a loved one struggling with depression can be frustrating, especially if the process is stalled or slow. However, remember that practising patience is crucial in these circumstances as even the most optimal treatment cannot provide results overnight.
  • Encourage your loved one to practice a healthy, mood-boosting lifestyle by being a role model. Eat healthily, maintain a positive outlook, avoid drugs and alcohol, exercise regularly, and rely on others for support.

Find a support group for them

Support groups play a crucial role in recovery for people fighting depression and their family members and loved ones. These support groups provide them with a platform to meet others with similar issues, discuss their ongoing challenges and seek support and encouragement. Other participants of the support groups can also help your loved ones by providing them information, tips, and advice about valuable resources to right depression.

If you cannot find an in-person support group for your loved one, go to online groups or depression chat rooms.

Understand their medication

It is common for many people with depression to take medication. If your loved one is among them, a practical way to support them is by educating yourself on the drugs they are consuming. Try to find out how the medication works, its side effects, and the symptoms that indicate the treatment is not working. You can also keep ensuring from time to time whether they are compliant with their medication or not.

Another way to help is by reminding them to refill their prescriptions, keeping their pills organised, and ensuring that your loved one is taking them as prescribed. Remind them from time to time that it is okay to take pills for depression and it does not make them “crazy.”

Learn more about therapy

In addition to learning about medication, spend some time learning about the therapy options available to your loved one for depression treatment. Some of these therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thinking patterns to overcome depression.
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy utilises different aspects of mindfulness to help depressed individuals learn how to improve relationships, manage stress, and regulate their emotions.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on helping individuals improve their interpersonal relationships and communication skills.

Learn how to recognise and respond to a crisis

A major depressive episode is associated with a very high risk of suicide, especially for someone who has a past history of self-harm or suicide attempts. Some other risk factors determining it include living alone, feeling extremely hopeless, or being male.

If you believe your loved one is at risk of attempting suicide, do not leave them alone. Get in touch with your local emergency services and stay with your loved one until help arrives.

Do not ignore yourself

Remember that you cannot support someone else if you are feeling depleted or overwhelmed. Taking some time to step back from your current situation is advised to recharge your batteries and come back with new energy. It is also essential to take a break, as living with a depressed individual can put you at risk of catching the same feelings too.



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