Medical News Today: How can you help a loved one with depression?

There is no single strategy to help an individual with depression. Knowing the needs and personality of the person with depression can help guide a supportive approach.

A person who thrives on social contact or fears isolation may get temporary relief from spending time with loved ones. If those loved ones are judgmental or unkind, however, the visit may make their symptoms worse.

Below are some ways people can try to help a friend or loved one with depression.

Listen without judgment

One of the most powerful things a person can do is to listen to a loved one and let them air their emotions. A person should avoid telling the individual what to feel or how to solve their problems.

Helping is not about giving advice, as a person may not know the right advice to give unless they have mental health training. Just listening without judgment can make the person of concern feel understood and less alone.

Listening to challenging emotions can also bring up negative feelings in the listener, which can affect their mental health as well.

If helping a friend or loved one with depression is affecting the person’s own health, they may benefit from talking to someone about these emotions.

Talking about or naming depression does not make it worse. Furthermore, mental health professionals tend to agree that directly talking about suicide does not increase someone’s risk of suicide either.

Providing an outlet for difficult emotions may help your loved one feel less overwhelmed.

Reach out to them

Actively reaching out to someone who may be experiencing depression is usually going to be helpful.

People with depression may feel more shame and guilt than others and are less likely to reach out for help themselves because of their negative emotions.

Calling, visiting, or simply texting them will let them know that someone is thinking about them and may encourage them to engage.

Encourage positive action

a couple going for a walk through a leafy park. Share on Pinterest
Encouraging positive action, such as going for a short walk, may help a loved one cope with their depression symptoms.

It is a good idea to ask someone what they find helps them feel better. This might be watching a favorite movie, going for a short walk, exercising, or cooking a healthful meal. Try encouraging them to do these things, even if they feel like it is impossible. Offering to do something with them may be most effective.

It can be helpful to suggest strategies that might provide the person with a diversion. This approach can also offer the individual an outlet to talk or just be with someone who cares about them. An example of this is offering to take them to dinner or a movie or planning an afternoon together.

If someone with depression feels unable to do these things, let them know that taking it easy is okay, too. The idea is to support the loved one.

Learn more about depression

People can read blogs, books, websites, message boards, and other resources to learn more about what it feels like to have depression. These information platforms can also explain the various treatments, therapy methods, and other factors that may be helpful.

Researching the subject can enable someone to understand better what their loved one is going through.

If a person has experienced depression themselves, they should not assume that their experiences are the same as their loved ones. Each person with depression faces their own journey with challenges that will be unique to them.

Help them get help

It can be a good idea to encourage the person experiencing depression to seek professional help.

Find ways to make this help more accessible for them, such as by offering to contact an insurance provider to determine how much coverage they have for therapy or offering to drive them to their appointment.

If someone is unsure where to get help, the National Institute of Mental Health provide resources and links where people can find support for mental health and crises. Otherwise, people can contact their or their loved one’s healthcare professional for information.

Offer support

Offering support with activities that the individual finds overwhelming or unbearable is a good strategy. An example is offering to take their kids for an hour or two, so they can get some rest or go to therapy. If they feel overwhelmed by daily tasks, someone can ask about helping with laundry or hiring a cleaner.

It is simple to reassure the person that depression is treatable in most cases, even if it feels unbearable. One strategy is to reassure them that they are not alone and that their depression should start to get better with time and treatment.

Look after yourself

Caring for someone with depression can feel overwhelming and be exhausting. It is important to remember that an individual cannot cure somebody else’s depression. Also, their loved one’s depression is not their fault, and they can only do so much.

To avoid burnout, people should make sure they create boundaries and look after their own mental well-being. This can include seeking counseling or talking to friends about what they are experiencing, taking time to themselves, and engaging in relaxation methods.

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