When you know that someone that love dearly is suffering from depression, it's hard to know how to help, or if you should even bother trying. Your support and encouragement, hard as it may be to provide, is incredibly important to helping your loved one with depression.
A word of caution: depression can easily wear you down if you don't tend to your own needs. And if you're worn down, you will be of no help to your loved one. Here are some tips for helping a loved one with depression.
How To Help Yourself If You Are Depressed:
If you're dealing with major depression, helping yourself may feel like a gigantic, insurmountable feat. When getting out of bed in the morning is a victory, you know it's time to get some real help for your depression . . . but how?
Here are some tips for helping yourself if you have major depression.
Do not wait until your depression is "bad enough" to seek help. The longer you wait, the more agony you're putting yourself through. Any depression is bad enough to seek help. If you don't know where to find help, start with your general doctor, or the campus health or counseling center. They should be able to help you get to the right place.
Set small realistic goals for yourself, and when you meet them, celebrate.
Break down big tasks into smaller, bite-sized ones that can be completed more easily. That will help to see how you can best manage your priorities.
Try (this may sound ridiculously hard) to get active. Exercise. The chemicals you release when you work out can really boost your mood.
Try for 8 hours of sleep a night. Depression usually comes with sleep issues (too much or too little) which can make your mood suffer. Try to get a better night's sleep more consistently.
Get some sunlight and fresh air every day.
Reduce stress. No matter how you do it, let some of it go. Stress can impede depression treatment and actually TRIGGER depression. Find what works for you and do it.
Even if it sounds like a horrible idea, try to set aside some time for activities you used to like. Go to a movie with friends. Go out to dinner. Do something.
Don't isolate yourself (even though it's really tempting). Let people in and let people you trust know that you are struggling.
Let other people help you. You may have to ask for the help, but know that it is not the burden you feel it is. That's the depression talking.
The depression has some really nasty things to say sometimes. Try and tune that mean voice out and remember that you are worth it. You really are.
Soon, those awful, mean thoughts will be replaced by more positive thoughts. So keep holding on.
Challenge those nasty thoughts (negative thoughts) with this: "would you say these things to a friend?"
Allow for imperfections. You're not perfect. I'm not perfect. NO ONE is perfect.
Find some positive people to be around. Positivity can do a lot to improve your outlook on life.
Just like treatment for diabetes or liver disease, your symptoms will not improve overnight. Getting help does not mean that you are cured instantly.
Boost B-vitamin consumption while minimizing sugar and refined carbohydrates. Complex carbs are okay.
Don't make any important decisions (getting married, having a baby, having another baby, moving across the country) while the depression has its teeth in you. Wait until you are feeling better, calmer, and can discuss the ideas with a loved one.
Educate yourself. Learn all that you can. Find things that work for you. Don't be discouraged if what works for your friend doesn't help you. Depression is unique.
Find a support group. Support groups are great places to feel less alone, less like a freak, and learn new and better coping mechanisms.
Write it out. For us, at Band Back Together, or for yourself.
We are NONE of us alone - even if we feel that way sometimes.
How To Help A Loved One With Depression:
When you learn that your loved one is suffering from this very real mental illness, it can be overwhelming. What do you do? How do you do it? What if this makes the depression worse?
Here are some tips for helping someone with major depression.
Learn about depression and how to talk about depression with your family member.
Remember that depression is a serious condition - it can drain optimism, energy, and motivation from your loved one.
Depression, like other medical problems, is not something that can be "snapped out of."
Remember that being a compassionate listener to your depressed friend is far more important than giving advice.
Encourage your loved one to talk about his or her feelings - and listen without judgment.
Depressed people tend to withdraw from others, so a single conversation about the depression isn't the end of it. You may have to express your concerns and willingness to listen many times. Do so gently, but persistently.
Start a conversation by saying "I've been concerned about you," "You seem down lately," or "You've been acting differently, are you okay?"
If you don't know how to help, go ahead and express this to your loved one.
Often, being supportive means offering encouraging words and hope for the future, not spewing advice.
Even though you can't control someone's recovery from depression, you can help with their treatment. Encourage your friend to seek help. Your depressed loved one may resist treatment as depression saps both motivation and the feelings that things will ever improve. In this way, encouraging your friend to seek treatment for depression may be challenging.
You can offer to help your friend seek treatment for depression by suggestion a visit to a general practitioner - not a psychiatrist. This may help rule out medical causes for depression.
Offer to help your depressed friend find a doctor or therapist. Promise to go with them for their first visit.
Help your depressed loved one make an extensive list of symptoms to take with them to the doctor.
Help with the treatment of depression in your loved one by researching treatment options, ensuring they go to their appointments, and stay on schedule with treatment plans.
Help to create a low-stress environment for your friend. It can be very challenging while you are depressed to become organized and develop and maintain a routine. Ask your friend if you can help with very specific tasks.
Keep all expectations realistic - it's really frustrating to watch a depressed loved one struggle if progress is slow.
Be patient - even with proper treatment, depression recovery doesn't happen overnight.
Encourage your depressed loved one. Sometimes, the very act of getting out of bed on a bad morning can be a huge accomplishment. Tell your friend so.
Encourage your friend to stick with treatments for depression, even if they are not working right away. Know that depression treatment takes time.
Understand that there is an increased risk of suicide among depressed people. Know that at some point, your friend with depression may or may not have suicidal thoughts.
Learn about the signs of suicide - the link will explain signs of suicide and how to handle them more thoroughly - and look for them in your friend. These may include talking about suicide, being preoccupied with suicide, dying or violence, or increased risky behaviors.
If you are concerned that suicide is a possibility, talk to your loved one. Then seek help. Call the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255 to talk to a trained counselor who can advise you on how best to handle your suicidal loved one. Do NOT leave a suicidal person. Call 911 for any emergencies.
Things to Say To A Depressed Person:
"You're not alone. I'm here with you."
"You may not think so, but the way you're feeling will change."
"Maybe I don't understand completely how you feel, but I want to help."
"If you feel like you want to give up, hold on for one more minute - whatever you can manage."
"You're important to me - your life is important to me."
"Tell me how I can help."
How NOT To Help A Loved One With Depression:
While helping a loved one who is suffering depression, remember that self-care is incredibly important. Without taking care of yourself, you may become overwhelmed and be unable to properly help your friend.
Don't take it personally if your loved one lashes out at you. Sometimes, people with depression say awful, angry things that may hurt you deeply. Remember that's the depression - not your loved one - talking.
You cannot hide the problem. If your loved one has depression, don't be an enabler. Don't make excuses, cover up the depression, or lie for a loved one with depression. This may actually keep the depressed person from seeking proper treatment.
Don't think that you can fix a loved one's depression. It's not your problem and it's not up to you to take care of.
Remember, you're not to blame for the depression nor are you responsible for your loved one's happiness.
Things NOT To Say To A Depressed Person:
"It's all in your head."
"We've all felt this way."
"Look on the bright side."
"Why would you want to die? Your life is great."
"I can't help you."
"Snap out of it!"
"What's wrong with you?"
"Shouldn't you be better by now?"
"You have to take care of yourself for your kids!"
"You are so blessed - how could you be feeling this way?"
"Count your blessings."
"Suck it up."
Have any other suggestions or tips for how to help someone who is depressed? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.