4 SIMPLE WAYS TO SUPPORT A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be depressed, to try to function when everything feels like an effort? Most people don’t often think about it. Why would you? It’s a “depressing” issue to consider and it is hard to imagine.
One patient described it this way, wishing a loved one “got it.”
“My eyes are heavy, I’m crying a lot and have so little energy. It is an effort to get myself up and take a walk. But I look great! That’s what you tell me. You don’t understand why I might be irritable or disinterested in getting out and doing things. Sometimes you tell me I’m difficult or you get frustrated with me. You think I should be able to clean my house or join you for dinner. I go to work but I am doing the minimal and getting by. I try to do things to feel better but those things don’t always work. And then I start to spiral into all of these negative thoughts. That’s when I know it is really bad. I’m truly doing the best I can. I just wish you wouldn’t judge me."
The truth is that depression is still hard to talk about. People often don’t understand what it is or how to be helpful.
You can’t always know when someone is depressed because you can’t always see it. For the most part, we find it easier to support someone if they have a cast on their arm, or have recently had a surgery. We know how to be there in those circumstances: ”How can I help you?” “What do you need?” “I’ll bring over some food.” “Do you want company?” “Do you need a ride to an appointment?”
Depression is not a person’s fault. They did not bring it upon themselves. Rather, depression is a medical condition that affects an individual physically, emotionally and behaviorally. The good news is that depression can be treated successfully.
Following are four suggestions for supporting your friend or family member who may suffer from depression.
- Learn about the symptoms of depression. Educate yourself through reliable sources.
- Support them in getting medical and psychological care.
Often individuals with depression are unaware that depression is what they are dealing with. It may be a situation where they have felt this way before and feel they can change things by sheer willpower. Or they may be embarrassed and believe they should be able to handle it on their own. Depression is different than having a bad day or a bout of the blues.
If your friend or family member is not already getting professional help and guidance, support them is doing so. Depression requires medical care. Meeting with their primary care physician or a mental health professional is a good first step in evaluating and resolving their symptoms.
- Be empathic . Try to put yourself in their shoes. Ask them what it is like and how you can be helpful. Don’t judge them. “I can only imagine how difficult this feels for you right now.” Let them know that you care and are there for them. Individuals suffering from severe depression often struggle with feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. Talking about their symptoms with them if they choose will reduce the stigma and shame that they may be feeling.
- Check in on your friend or loved one frequently.
People who are depressed tend to isolate and withdraw. They often feel that they are a burden to others. Engage them in activities that they find pleasurable. Going for a walk, cooking a meal together, completing small tasks can bring a sense of satisfaction. Or just spending time together in whatever way is comfortable for them can be uplifting and reassuring.
Receiving care from a trained professional is key in resolving symptoms and helping your friend or family member to resume their lives in a meaningful way.
But your support through encouragement, understanding and friendship are significant factors in helping your loved one return to health.