How to help a loved one with depression?
Depression is always a tough thing to deal with, and what makes it more difficult is the stigma attached to it.
Even though things are changing and more people are taking this seriously, we still have a long way to go. However, not a lot of people know how to handle and support people going through depression, due to the lack of awareness and knowledge.
If you want to support a depressed loved one, you will need to know a few things about depression itself and how to help effectively.
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” —Christopher Reeve
Depression affects people’s careers, sexuality, physical health, and emotional health. But one effect is often ignored because it resides in the periphery. Family, friends, spouses, children, and significant others are greatly influenced by their loved one’s depression. They too carry the burden of depression.
Treatment often only focuses on the individual, but what about those who are connected to them? What are family members and significant others supposed to do when their loved one is in emotional pain? How can they help? How can they care for themselves when caring for their loved ones?
Below you will find 10 steps to take when your loved one is depressed.
1. You are not enough.
The first thing you have to realize if you truly want to help your depressed loved one is that you are not enough. The love, help, support, and care you provide for your loved is important, but it’s not enough. This is a difficult pill to swallow, yet it can also offer some relief. You are not enough because you shouldn’t be. Your loved one’s recovery shouldn’t rest entirely on your shoulders. It has been said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it also takes a village to help a depressed person recover.
Seek out support structures for your loved one so that you aren’t the only lifeline. Support structures can be anything: faith community, support groups, clubs, online gamer affiliations, depression forums, friends, family members, treatment groups, and mental health professionals. You, as well, need a support structure. Don’t forget about your need for support as you support your depressed loved one.
2. Depression doesn’t define your loved one.
Depression can mute personality. However, the change isn’t permanent. Think of depression-like turning the volume dial down on a speaker. It’s still playing the same music, but at a diminished level. People recover from depression every day and regain their energy, motivation and most importantly, their personality. That person you once knew is still there.
“Getting better from depression demands a lifelong commitment. I’ve made that commitment for my life’s sake and for the sake of those who love me.” —Susan Polis Schutz
3. Remember to take care of yourself.
Taking care of or living with someone who is suffering from depression can be emotionally taxing. It is not selfish for you to take care of yourself. There is an appropriate level of emotional distance that is healthy for your well-being and for your loved one. Too much involvement in their mental illness can be a bad thing. Also, you are showing your loved one how to take care of themselves when you take care of yourself.
4. Have patience.
Depending on what type of depression your loved one has, recovery will take a great deal of time. Bear in mind that recovery entails trial and error. Your loved one may try to overcome the depression and fail several times because depression compromises the motivation for healing.
Don’t compare your love to someone else who also has a mental illness and is motivated healing and change. Without motivation for change, depression takes a long time to heal. Therefore, have patience with your loved one and have patience with the process of healing. If they are taking medication, going to counseling, or attending a support group, allow time for these treatments to work.
5. Maintain a predictable and regular schedule.
Depression has a way of stalling life. It is like chewing molasses; it makes life slow and arduous. This affects your loved one and it affects you as well. Acknowledge it, but take steps so it doesn’t overwhelm your life.