Living with depression is never easy — both for those with it and those who love them. Depression can affect every single facet of daily life, making even the simplest of things feel impossible.
You probably watch your loved one struggling and wish you knew what you could do to help. You see their loss of interest in favourite activities, their difficulty making it through the day, and their deep sadness, but do not know how to help.
If this sounds familiar, draw upon these suggestions as a place to start.
Avoid Well-Intentioned Advice or Criticism
One of the best ways to help someone with depression is to stop yourself from saying anything critical or judgmental. You may think that you are being encouraging, but it probably does not sound that way to someone who is depressed.
In your desire to help, you may have come up with all kinds of suggestions: i.e., take these supplements, walk an hour each day, just act like you feel better and you will, and so many more. Perhaps friends have used a certain medication or seen a specific therapist, and you eagerly encourage your loved one to do the same. Although these are well-intentioned suggestions, they may not be helpful to your loved one; they may leave them feeling more overwhelmed.
Recovering from depression is never easy and unfortunately, there is no “quick-fix.” It is an illness that requires a process or journey of recovery.
Those who have gone through depression often describe the fact that they feel like they live in a mental fog. This makes it hard to make decisions, get chores done, and remember commitments or tasks.
It is important to be patient with your loved one when this happens. They cannot control the symptoms of depression in their life. Accept that they will probably be functioning more slowly and that their recovery will take longer than anyone would like.
And understand your loved one does not want to be this way or feel this way.
Learn About Depression
When depression is experienced by a loved one, it can be confusing and maybe even scary. Questioning when, or if, they will feel better can feel unsettling. And while the stigma surrounding mental illness has begun to shift somewhat, there is still a lot of misinformation. It can feel overwhelming for you too.
Fortunately, you can find helpful, factual information about depression on trusted medical sites. Use these to learn about what your loved one is going through. There is also good support available for loved ones with online support groups you may find helpful.
As mentioned, managing even simple daily tasks can feel impossible for someone struggling with depression. Finding small, practical ways to help can go a long way.
Your loved one’s level of depression might determine how you help. Try asking what would be most helpful to them. Maybe it is picking up groceries, running an errand, preparing a few freezer meals for them, or picking up kids. It could be doing some light housework or finding a cleaning service to come in a few times a month.
Come Alongside Them
While people with depression often resist social invitations, they may be open to spending time with you one on one. Invite them to sit outside with you or take a walk. Fill their stream with comedies and make it a point to watch some together. Please follow Covid-19 safety guidelines.
The key is to find subtle, non-intrusive ways to make sure your loved one is still getting some social interaction and emotional support. They may resist, of course. But keep trying and look for creative ways to make it happen.
Seek a Therapist’s Help
If your loved one’s depression reaches the point where you are worried about the possibility of suicide, job loss, or other life-altering effects, it is important to seek professional help. While you cannot make your loved one go to therapy, you can make an appointment yourself to seek advice and support.
As a team of experienced therapists, we have worked with many families to help them when a loved one is suffering from depression. Together, a therapist can support you as you try to help them. And if they agree to attend therapy, a therapist can guide them through depression and back to feeling well.
A Book We Recommend Giving to Someone Experiencing Depression
You Can Do All Things: Drawings, Affirmations and Mindfulness to Help with Anxiety and Depression by Kate Allan. “Kate combines wisdom, humour, and beautiful, whimsical artwork that can be your daily companion when you feel anxious, inadequate, and overwhelmed.” Susan Reeve, author of Heart Healing