5 Ways To Support A Depressed Friend or Family Member
Coping with depression in a friend or loved one can be difficult
to navigate. Often, anything you say or do comes off as insensitive or worse, dismissive and demeaning. Depressed people can be defensive, blow situations out of proportion, and are often unable to see the good in themselves. They tend to overthink and dramatize their situations and can be very sensitive. Knowing how to handle communicating with a depressed individual will enable you to not only support the person you care about, but also save you frustration and disappointment.
The 5 Ways to Offer Support
1. First, be sure that they know you are there for them. Depression can be very isolating and loneliness is a common symptom. Spend as much time with them as you can. If you can’t spend time with them, send them emails, text messages, letters, and call them. Don’t be offended if they don’t seem receptive to the attention. Even if it doesn’t seem like it helps, it does get through and will help ease the loneliness. During these interactions, be very careful about your tone of voice. When depressed and defensive, almost anything can be taken as an insult, so chose words that don’t imply the depressed person is to blame for their situation. Be sure that what you say is reassuring and comes from a place of love and understanding. Instead of saying something like “Why are you so sad all the time?” say “I’ve noticed you’ve been down lately, is there anything I can do to help?”
2. Second, it is essential that you listen to them. Depressed individuals often see their problems as very large, usually larger than they really are. Listen to them talk about these things even if it is hard to hear. Convey understanding and be sympathetic. Don’t point out that they may be exaggerating the state of their situation. Explaining to them why things aren’t so bad will only make them feel like you don’t understand them and that you are trivializing their pain. Instead be reassuring. Let them know that you acknowledge how they feel and that it won’t last forever. Be as reassuring as possible.
3. Third, point out their positive attributes and recognize any gains and achievements they make. Depression makes everyday tasks seem overwhelming and depressed individuals often can’t see their positive attributes. Celebrate small victories with your loved one as they occur. Did they shower? Acknowledge it. Did they call a friend, vacuum the floor, make it through a day at work? Celebrate it. Talk to them about these things. Imagine how difficult it must have been or how much energy it took for them to do those tasks. Ask them questions and let them know you see their efforts and value them. Let them know how you feel about them and what you think they are good at. These positive affirmations will carry them through to another day. Say something like “I think you’re doing amazingly well today. I don’t know how you do it.”
4. Forth, provide help in other ways than just being emotionally supportive. Depression causes fatigue and loss of energy that makes keeping up with life difficult. Offer to help with chores, phone calls, taking care of bills, grocery shopping, and driving to and from appointments. Ask them what you can do to make their day-to-day lives easier. If they like to be more independent offer to do these tasks together and work as a team.
5. Lastly, it is important to support your loved one as they seek out treatment. Never suggest a treatment to them outright. It comes off as insensitivity and is insulting. It is better to tell them you know about a type of treatment and ask them if they would like to look into it together. Be very conscious of how you talk to them about their treatment. If they are willing, approach treatment as a team. Offer to go with them to appointments, help them keep track of new medications, and search for support networks and groups together.
Supporting a loved one with depression can be daunting. Following these basic guidelines will guide you on your journey as you help them through theirs. Contact them regularly, listen and be understanding, point out their achievements and positive attributes, help them with household chores and errands, and approach recovery as a team.
- Tina Fuster
1. 4 Ways to Support Someone With Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved January 6, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/09/18/4-ways-to-support-someone-with-depression/
2. Day to day support - Depression Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved January 6, 2015, from http://www.depressionalliance.org/information/day-day-support
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