How to Support Someone Experiencing Depression
When someone we care about is going through a difficult time, it can be challenging to know what to do or say. Whether it is your family member, significant other, or friend that is experiencing depression, this article will provide insight into how you can best support someone you care about.
The first step is gaining understanding into what depression is as well as what it isn’t.
What is Depression?
Depression is something other than feeling miserable or down. Major depressive disorder is a serious mental health disorder that is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors. Having depression significantly impacts an individual’s mood, energy levels, motivation, and ability to carry out daily tasks.
Symptoms of major depressive disorder include persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness or hopelessness, fatigue, eating too little or too much, sleeping too little or too much, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free, private, and accessible every minute of every day.
There are various forms of depression that occur in unique circumstances, such as persistent depressive disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
For more information about mood disorders as well as other mental health conditions, and to take a screening test for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD or dissociative disorders, visit Mind Diagnostics: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/dissociative_identity_disorder-test.
5 Strategies for Supporting Someone Experiencing Depression:
Listen without judgment.
Offer the space for this person to share what they are experiencing, and listen without judgment. Respond with empathetic statements such as ‘I can imagine that would be really difficult.’
Be careful not to respond in any way that minimizes the other person’s emotions or comes off as shaming.
Don’t offer simple fixes.
Avoid trying to provide solutions, for example: ‘Just think positive, you have so much to be grateful for’ or ‘Have you tried exercise?’
An individual does not choose to be depressed. It is an illness that requires professional treatment, and it is not a matter of ‘snapping out of it’ or generating more positive thoughts.
Instead of offering advice, just be there to listen and validate your loved one’s emotions.
Encourage them to seek professional support.
If this person has not yet sought professional help for their depression, encourage them to do so. Offer to assist them in researching options for therapists and making an appointment. Be there to process as they voice potential concerns about seeking treatment and remind them that things can get better.
Offer help with practical tasks.
A person who is experiencing depression often has difficulty with generating the motivation and energy needed to accomplish daily tasks. Offer your assistance in helping them with a chore they have been procrastinating on, or to bring over a healthy meal. Instead of saying ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do,’ ask directly what they need and take the initiative to show up for them in practical ways.
Just be there.
Remember that even if you feel helpless or unsure what to do, just being there is the most important thing. Just being present in the midst of this difficult time will remind this person that they are loved, cared for, and not alone.
The bottom line
In showing support for somebody living with misery, recollect that it isn’t something that you can fix. Depression requires professional treatment which typically looks like psychotherapy and/or medication.
As difficult as it may be to see your loved one hurting, the best thing you can do is be there to listen, point them to professional support, and show them that you care.