How Can Friends And Family Help
This information is for friends and family who want to support someone with depression.
The support of friends and family can play a very important role in someone recovering from depression. Here are some suggestions for how you can help.
- Support them to get help. You can’t force anyone to get help if they don’t want it, so it’s important to reassure your loved one that it’s OK to ask for help, and that there is help out there. See our pages on how to support someone else to seek help for their mental health for more information.
- Be open about depression. Lots of people can find it hard to open up and speak about how they’re feeling. Try to be open about depression and difficult emotions, so your friend or family member knows that it’s OK to talk about what they’re experiencing.
“The best things that friends and family can do is simply listen. They often don’t need to say anything, just being willing to listen to your problems makes you feel less alone and isolated”
- Keep in touch. It might be hard for your loved one to have the energy to keep up contact, so try to keep in touch. Even just a text message or email to let them know that you’re thinking of them can make a big difference to how someone feels.
“Talking… not even talking about how I felt. Just talking about stupid things that didn’t matter over coffee, without pressure and knowing that I can talk about the tough stuff if I want to.”
Remind Them You’re There For Them
Depression can feel as though no one understands what you are feeling or even cares enough to try to understand, which can be isolating and overwhelming.
Research has shown that people tend to withdraw when they are depressed, so reaching out to a friend in need is an important first step. If your friend isn’t ready to talk, continue to offer your support by spending time with them and try to check in regularly, either in person, on the phone, or by text.
When you reach out to a friend, letting them know that you are going to be there every step of the way can be very reassuring.
You may not quite know what this will look like at first, but know that just reminding your friend that you are someone they can lean on can mean the world.
How Are You Managing How Is Your Depression
This can give you some insight into how their treatment is going or if they need help getting professional assistance.
Depression is a medical condition. Its not a flaw or weakness. If someone you love has depression, encourage them to seek professional help if they havent already done so. Remind them that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Asking how their treatment is going can also encourage them to stick with their treatment plan. You may also tell them when youve noticed improvements. This can help validate its working, even if they dont always feel like it is.
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Things To Remember When You Love A Person Who Has Depression
1. Depression is not a choice.
Depression is one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences a person can have. Its sometimes feeling sad, sometimes feeling empty, and sometimes feeling absolutely nothing at all. There are times when depression can leave someone feeling paralyzed in their own mind and body, unable to do the things they used to love to do or the things they know they should be doing. Depression is not just a bad day or a bad mood and its not something someone can just get over. Remember no one chooses to be depressed.
2. Saying things like itll get better, you just need to get out of the house, or youll be fine is meaningless.
Its easy to tell someone these things because you think youre giving them a solution or a simple way to make them feel better and to ease their pain, but these kinds of phrases always come across as empty, insulting, and essentially meaningless.
Saying these phrases to them only create more tension within, making them feel as though theyre inadequate, and like youre not acknowledging what theyre going through by trying to put a band aid on a much larger issue. They understand youre just trying to help but these words only make them feel worse. A silent hug can do so much more than using cliched sayings.
What you can say instead:
Avoid offering advice but instead just let them know youre there for them and ask them questions to help guide them in discovering what could make them feel better.
Signs That Someone May Be Depressed
Depression has lots of possible symptoms.
You may notice that someone:
- has lost interest in doing things they normally enjoy
- seems to be feeling down or hopeless
- has slower speech and movements or is more fidgety and restless than usual
- feels tired or does not have much energy
- is overeating or has lost their appetite
- is sleeping more than usual or is not able to sleep
- has trouble concentrating on everyday things, such as watching TV or reading the paper
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Remember People Do Recover From Depression
It can be hard when youre in the middle of the storm with a depressed friend to remember that there was a time before, and hopefully an after, this miserable state. But its essential to remind yourself and the person youre trying to help that people do emerge from depression. Because they do.
I have seen it.Every single one of the experts quoted here has seen it, too. But it will take patience and time.
Is The Relationship The Cause
It can be difficult to tell whether or not a relationship is contributing to emotional difficulties. This is because depression can also cause difficulty in relationships, so sometimes, the two problems are interrelated.
However, in cases where a relationship is healthy, treating the depression may improve someones relationship with their partner as well as their own quality of life.
If a person begins treatment for depression and still feels unhappy in their relationship, it may be a sign that the relationship itself is having an impact on their mental health.
A mental health professional such as a therapist or relationship counselor can help a person understand whether or not their relationship is healthy or beneficial.
Some signs that a relationship is harmful include:
- being blamed for having mental health difficulties
- feeling insecure or unconfident as a result of the partners behavior
- feeling trapped, alone, or isolated from friends and family
- being prevented from making ones own decisions
- experiencing frequent drama and conflict
- feeling threatened or unsafe in any way
People who recognize these signs may be experiencing abuse.
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Remind Them That They Matter
A common feeling among those who are depressed is that their lives don’t matter and no one would even care if they were gone. If you can sincerely tell your friend about all the ways that they matter to you and others, this can help them realize that they have value and worth.
Letting them know that they are an important person in your life can mean a lot when someone is struggling with feelings of depression and worthlessness.
Offer Help In A Way Thats Meaningful To The Person With Depression
You might want to encourage your loved one to seek treatment, which can include therapy and medication, but this needs to be done with sensitivity.
The first step in helping people with depression is to let them know you are there for them, Dr. Gaynes says.
Tell them that you care about them and want to hear if there is something distressing them. You want them to realize that theyre not alone, he says.
The next step is to find out what they want in terms of support. Most people are not going to want to be told what to dogo see a therapist!and that suggestion might end the conversation quickly. Sometimes people just want to be heard, sometimes they need something specific, and sometimes they want advice.
How do you find out?
Just ask them, Dr. Gaynes says. You can say, What youre telling me about sounds pretty upsetting. What can I do to help? They might have an idea, so let them tell you. If they dont have an idea, you might be able to suggest some things.
Depending on the situation, that might mean making an appointment so the person can talk to his or her primary care doctor or researching an online support group. It might be buying a book on living with depression or offering to come over once a week to take a walk together. The options are endless, but what matters is youre meeting them where they are, Dr. Gaynes says.
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Dont Try To Cheer Him Up Or Offer Advice
Your brother has an enviable job and two lovely children. Hes still ridiculously handsome even though he hasnt gone to the gym for six months. Its tempting to want to remind him of all these good things.
Not only is that unlikely to boost his mood, it could backfire by reinforcing his sense that you just dont get it, said Megan Devine, a psychotherapistand the author of Its O.K. That Youre Not O.K.
Your job as a support person is not to cheer people up. Its to acknowledge that it sucks right now, and their pain exists, she said.
Instead of upbeat rebuttals about why its not so bad, she recommended trying something like, It sounds like life is really overwhelming for you right now.
If you want to say something positive, focus on highlighting what he means to you, Dr. Rosenthal advised. And though offering suggestions for how to improve his life will be tempting, simply listening is better.
Help Identify Opportunities For Enjoyment
Sometimes, well-meaning loved ones will get in an argument with the depressed person about whether he or she is depressed, Dr. Gaynes says. Thats not effective.
Rather than focusing on I want to make you less depressed, think about how can we get you back to those things that you get pleasure from? Dr. Gaynes says.
So you might say, I notice you havent been taking long walks with the dog as much lately. How can we help you enjoy doing that again?
More language from Dr. Gaynes that might be helpful: Lets find a way to get you more of what you need. I dont have all the answers, but I love you. Lets try to figure this out together.
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Remind Them It’s Ok To Feel The Way They Feel
Even if your friend’s problems may seem minor to you, resist the urge to judge or come up with simple solutions. The biochemical imbalances associated with depression are what is driving how bad your friend feels about certain situationsnot necessarily the situations themselves.
Instead, let them know that you are sorry that they are feeling so badly and adopt an attitude of acceptance that this is how their depression is affecting them. If your friend only recently started taking medications or attending counseling, it can take time for them to begin to feel better.
Just as an antibiotic for strep throat takes a while to work, antidepressants can take some time to change chemicals in the brain .
During this time, what your friend needs most is not references to fast, easy solutions, but an awareness that you will be by their side through their treatment.
What To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed
We humans are a complex bunch, and even with all the loving intent in the world it can be difficult to know what to say. Here are some places to start.
This isnt an ending. You can beat this.
The hopelessness of depression stands with its arms crossed, blocking the door to anything better. Thats how it feels. You probably wont be believed the first time you say this, but just keep saying it and believing it enough for both of you. Even if the way out feels blocked, youll at least be lighting the path.
This will help more than you realise but back it up with action. Call. Visit. Make contact. The very nature of depression means that the depressed person will be unlikely to reach out to you. Show them you have enough reach in you for both of you. It will make a difference.
Narrow your offer of help.
If you say, let me know what I can do to help, youre likely to get a nothing or just nothing back. Depression makes things seem pointless and overwhelming. Narrowing down your offer gives a starting point. Narrow down the time Ill meet you after your session/ therapy/ doctors appointment if you want, or the task What can I do to help with the kids?Ive made a curry. Theres heaps. Can I bring some over for you. Just throw it in the freezer if you want.
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Things People With Depression Want You To Know
Depression is more than just feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Young Scot, Dionne McFarlane, has shared her experiences of living with depression.
For people living depression it can be difficult for the people that are close to them to understand. Depression is the most common mental health issue in the UK. Through my experience of living with depression, this is what I think is important for people toknow and try to understand.
If you’ve been affected by depression, find out where you can get help from AyeMind.
What Can I Do To Help Today
Depression often causes fatigue, trouble sleeping, and a lack of motivation. Sometimes just getting out of bed can be hard.
Asking what you can do can really help them through their day.
Maybe theyre not eating well and you can pick up dinner. Maybe they need a morning call or text to ensure they get to work on time.
Sometimes you just need to listen. Helping doesnt have to be a huge, drastic effort. It can be as simple as picking up a phone, sharing a meal, or driving them to an appointment.
what Not to say
Just remember: Advice isnt the same as asking for help. If they ask for your advice, give it if you so choose. But dont offer them helpful solutions or statements that seem like a cure for their depression. This can feel judgmental or not empathetic.
- Just think happy thoughts. I dont understand what you have to be so sad about.
- Everything will be OK, I promise.
- I cut out sugar and I was cured! You should try it.
- You just need to snap out of this.
- So many people out there are worse off than you.
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Andrew: Loving Someone With Depression
Depression is devastating. When someone is experiencing depression, their entire life is blown apart. It can be a massive struggle just to make it through each day. But they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
Often forgotten are the loved ones of a person with depression. No-one tells them how to cope. They don’t know what to do. I would like to try and offer some advice to those people.
Knowing somebody you love is struggling with depression leaves you feeling incredibly helpless. You feel if you could say the right thing, or do something special, that maybe you will be able to help them to get better. But you don’t know what to say or what to do.
You try a gentle approach, you try a firm approach. You give them space, you try to get them to open up. You suggest things that can help. You buy them presents. You say encouraging things, you get frustrated and argue. Yet nothing you do seems to make any difference.
From my experience, the big mistake that people often make is that they treat depression as a mood, as if saying or doing the right thing will lift the depression. What you must remember is that depression isn’t a mood – it’s a very debilitating illness.
That is EXACTLY what depression is like.
Just because you can’t see an injury doesn’t mean that it isn’t debilitating. After my worst bout of depression, it took months before I felt I could do my job properly. Even now, two years on, I’m not the same as I was.
This is the WRONG approach.
Depression Fallout By Anne Sheffield Summary
Using the vivid, poignant and personal stories of the members of a website support group she founded , Anne Sheffield, the author of two highly acclaimed books on depression, provides an honest record of what happens to a love relationship once depression enters the picture, and offers solid advice on what the nondepressed partner can do to improve his or her own life and the relationship. Of the millions of people who suffer from a depressive illness, few suffer in solitude. They draw the people they love spouses, parents, children, lovers, friends into their illness. In her first book, How You Can Survive When They’re Depressed, Anne Sheffield coined the phrase ‘depression fallout’ to describe the emotional toll on the depressive’s family and close friends who are unaware of their own stressful reactions and needs. She outlined the five stages of depression fallout and explained that these reactions are a natural result of living with a depressed person.
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