Depression affects millions all over the world, and you likely know people who battle with it every day. You may wonder how you can help them conquer this monster or at least give them the tools to fight it. The key tip? Remain by their side. Lend a listening ear and give advice when they need it. Your presence alone can provide comfort, but you should also implement more actionable things to help lessen the pain too. Below are six things you can do to help a depressed loved one — keep reading to find out what steps to take.
1. Ask Them What They Need From You
The most important element of helping someone with a chronic illness or disability is to consider their needs first. Symptoms manifest uniquely in everyone, which means everyone views their depression differently. Some people favour particular remedies or solutions over others. If your loved one needs help completing specific tasks, offer assistance when possible. If they want company, spend time with them. If they need alone time, accommodate their request within reason — if there’s a chance they may hurt themselves, though, avoid leaving them unattended.
They may desire things as simple as a long hug or words of appreciation. Remember that these don’t cure depression, and your loved one may still feel down afterward. Sometimes people need affection to remind themselves they’re not alone.
2. Encourage Them To Seek Medical Support
Your loved one can benefit from medical assistance, especially if their distress is severe. You don’t want them to feel pressured, however. If seeing a psychologist or therapist causes anxiety, suggest an initial visit to their primary physician instead. The familiarity of it can calm their nerves. They’ll likely need a referral, and they can get one from their primary doctor. Accompany them to appointments if they express hesitance about going alone.
A visit to the general practitioner will also rule out physical disorders as the cause of depression. Some conditions like Lyme disease or hypothyroidism can mimic symptoms associated with depression.
3. Provide Support Through Words
Listen to your loved one and advise them with their needs in mind. Don’t express judgment even if they tell you things you don’t expect — this can make them unwilling to confide in you again. People are social creatures, and although depression often gets in the way of interaction, a long talk can do wonders for the psyche.
If you want to initiate a conversation with someone you suspect is depressed, avoid being accusatory or diving straight into uncomfortable questions. Ask about how they’ve felt lately and what they think might be the cause. Let them know about your concerns without assigning pressure or guilt. You know what they respond to best, so approach them in a way that facilitates meaningful conversation.
4. Enlist Help From Others
Depression is incredibly heavy on those who have it, and as a caregiver or friend, you may feel weighed down too. When you support someone alone, you risk burning yourself out and putting yourself at risk for similar symptoms. Create a support system for your loved one instead of taking everything on yourself. A support system can consist of friends, relatives, medical professionals or even pets. An emotional support animal can provide companionship and comfort when you’re unavailable.
Take time to decompress and practice self-care. Your health is equally important, and you should maintain it whenever possible.
5. Suggest Mindful Practices
Mindful exercises like yoga and meditation may reduce depressive symptoms. Hatha yoga is prevalent within the U.S., and it includes asanas — or physical poses — and deep breathing exercises. Yoga can regulate stress responses by lessening physiological reactions like increased heart rate and blood pressure. Slowing the body’s cortisol production can decrease the intensity of depressive effects and foster a more relaxed mind.
Meditation encourages you to focus on the present moment and release any distractions. Acknowledge your thoughts and surroundings rather than ignoring them — or getting swept away in them. This mindset allows one to see depressive thoughts as passing notions rather than value judgments or indicators of self-worth. Negative perceptions will come, but you can also let them go.
6. Offer Assistance With Tasks
Depression can make even small tasks impossible. If you notice someone having issues caring for themselves or their home, do things to make it easier. Cook dinner a couple nights a week or help them clean their place on Sundays. Take the wheel if they aren’t up for driving, especially if they have appointments to attend. Chip with a few other friends to call an Uber.
Encourage them to engage in manageable but enjoyable activities like going to the movie theatre or taking a walk. Don’t feel discouraged if they don’t show much interest while out — stay consistent in taking them places. Building a routine can help them regain control over their life.
Be A Guiding Light Within The Darkness
Dealing with depression takes patience and time, but it’s easier when someone else is there for support. If someone you know is struggling, offer them a helping hand. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to provide inspiration and kickstart recovery.