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Mental health is a topic that has touched my life in more ways than I care to admit. Bipolar disorder and depression run in my family, and I have watched them suffer and witnessed the impact it has made in their lives. According to phychiatry.org, the degree of heritability is estimated at a staggering 40% when a parent, child, or sibling has depression.
We are often unaware that others suffer because we don’t know the signs. We also feel helpless because we don’t know how to support a loved one that we know is suffering from depression or other mental health issues.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from depression, here are six ways to support them through this difficult time.
6 Ways to Support A Loved One Suffering from Depression
DISCLAIMER: This post has content that involves suicide and depression
Depression makes people feel isolated and alone, causing them to withdraw and lose interest in things they usually enjoy. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from depression, it can be helpful to learn the signs to watch out for and ways to offer support. No one ever wants to see someone they love hurting
What is depression?
Depression is a mental illness that can cause a person to feel persistently sad or low, have reduced energy levels and motivation, experience changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and concentration, and feel worthless or hopeless. Depression is more than just feeling down for a few days – it can last weeks, months, or even years if left untreated. In severe cases, it can lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts.
How do I know if my loved one is depressed?
There are many signs that can indicate when someone is depressed. If your loved one is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it’s crucial to have a conversation with them about how they’re feeling:
- Seeming persistently sad, down, or empty
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Experiencing fatigue or low energy levels
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or helpless
- Change in appetite
- Talking about death or suicide frequently
If you notice any of these symptoms, there is a good chance your loved one is dealing with depression. It’s important to approach the conversation in a caring and non-judgmental way, letting them know that you’re there for them and want to help.
What can I do to support my loved one through depression?
If your loved one is living with depression, it’s very likely they won’t be receptive to your help – at least not initially. It’s essential to be patient and understand that they are probably feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and helpless.
Educate yourself about depression
Having an understanding of what your loved one is going through can be very helpful. Educating yourself can provide a better foundation for offering support because you’ll know what to expect and how to best communicate with them.
It can also be helpful to read about depression together, as this can provide a starting point for discussion and help your loved one feel less alone.
Listen to them
Often, the best thing you can do for someone with depression is to simply listen. This can be a difficult task when you want to “fix” the problem, but it’s important to resist the urge to offer solutions and let them express how they’re feeling.
Validating their feelings and letting them know you understand what they’re going through can be very helpful.
Offer practical help
Sometimes the simplest things can make a world of difference. If your loved one is struggling to keep up with everyday tasks, offer to help out where you can. Whether it’s doing some grocery shopping, taking the dog for a walk, or just hanging out with them without expectations. Anything you can do to lighten their load will be appreciated.
Encourage them to seek professional help
If your loved one is open to the idea, encourage them to seek professional help. This can be a big step for someone living with depression, but it’s often very beneficial. A therapist can provide tools and support that can help your loved one manage their depression in a healthy way.
Therapy can be expensive, as can medications. Not everyone has access to the same resources; help your friend or family member locate and secure the necessary resources – like setting up an appointment at the local aid office so they can get Medicaid.
There are online options for therapy now, too, and those can be more accessible. Some places even have financial aid programs available, but if someone is dealing with depression, it can be difficult to navigate the red tape. Offering to help is a beautiful way to support the person you care about.
Depression can be a long and challenging road to recovery. There will be good days and bad days, and sometimes it can feel like things are never going to get better. It’s important to be patient and remind your loved ones that you’re there for them, no matter what. Helping your loved one through their depression is a marathon, not a sprint.
Support their treatment
If your loved one is already seeing a therapist, offer to go with them to their appointments or be there for them after appointments. This can provide some much-needed moral support and ensure they’re staying on track with their treatment.
What are some warning signs that someone is considering suicide?
There are many warning signs that someone might be considering suicide. If you notice any of the following, it’s important to take them seriously and seek professional help right away:
- Talking about wanting to die or hurt themselves
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
- Withdrawing from friends and activities
- Abnormal mood swings
- Giving away prized possessions
- Putting affairs in order
If you are worried that someone might be considering suicide, the best thing to do is to talk to them about it. Asking them directly if they are thinking about suicide will not make them more likely to attempt it. In fact, it can provide an opportunity for them to express what they’re feeling and get the help they need.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
For more information on suicide prevention, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Will my loved one recover from their depression?
Depression can be a complex condition to live with, both for the person who is experiencing it and for their loved ones. But there is hope. With treatment and support, most people who experience depression will recover. It’s essential to be patient and supportive throughout the process – your loved one will appreciate everything you do to help them get through this tough time.
Sharing truly is caring!
Please show your support by sharing this important message with your family, friends, and co-workers. People who suffer from mental health issues, usually do so in silence. It can make all the difference if we know the signs and learn how we can support them.
And be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.
A Note from the Author
Hello Sensibly Shelley readers! I’m glad to be here sharing this post with you. My name is Leslie, you can find me at Expected Detours. Expected Detours is a mental health, wellness, and balance blog that turns one in December. I love hiking, half marathons, chocolate mochas, & reading. If you’d like to see more content like this post, please feel free to stop by to say hi.