When someone you care about is suffering from depression, life can be extremely difficult for both parties.
Many people want to be able to help their loved one, but they don’t know exactly how to go about it. While you will be unable to clear another person’s depression, there are some ways you can be supportive and really helpful:
1. Accept the fact that you, by yourself, cannot make them better – Clinical depression should be treated by a mental health professional. Many loved ones of depressed individuals become frustrated when all of their best efforts don’t seem to help break the person out of the cycle of depression. Unfortunately, you alone can’t make your loved one better, but your support can be extremely meaningful.
2. Be there for them – Although you won’t be able to make them feel 100% better, knowing that you are there when they need someone to hold their hand, give them a hug, or lend a shoulder to cry on can be very comforting.
3. Don’t judge them – It can be hard for a person who has never experienced depression before to truly understand what a depressed person is going through. You might be wondering, “why can’t they just SNAP out of it?!” or “why are they always looking at everything from a negative viewpoint?” When a person is depressed, it’s not something that they can simply snap out of. Do your best not to judge. It’s far better to listen and be open to what the your loved one is experiencing.
4. Educate yourself – Learning about depression can help you know what your loved one is up against. It will also help you to learn how you can best support them.
5. Be supportive of their treatment – Clinical depression should be treated by a mental health professional, but only the person with depression can make decisions about their treatment. In other words, if your loved one doesn’t want treatment right now, there isn’t much you can say or do to convince them. You can offer them the names of professionals that can help them, but the rest is up to them. If they have already sought treatment, make sure they know how proud you are of them for seeking help.
6. Don’t compare – Even if you yourself have experienced depression, each person’s experience will be different. Comparing what you have gone through to their depression will probably not make them feel better.
7. Don’t give advice – Though this is a normal reaction when someone you care about is in need, your loved one may not respond well to being given advice. Instead that advice might put extra pressure on your loved one. A better alternative is to ask them if there is anything they want your help or support with and respecting their wishes if they say ‘no’. If your loved one does not want your help in that moment, you can remind them that you are there for them to turn to if they need or want support in the future. Even though you can’t heal their depression, your support can make a real difference.