Hello, and a happy Monday to you!
I thought I would spend some time today continuing my how-to series so that you can better learn to support the people in your life who struggle with specific mental health disorders.
This series may also provide you with a clear way of explaining your mental illness to your friends and family.
Last week I touched upon the ways that people can support loved ones who struggle with an anxiety disorder.
Today, I plan on going over some supportive strategies you can use to help those in your life who struggle with depression.
Disclaimer: As usual, I will add that I am not a licensed professional or psychologist and my advice cannot be used as a form of treatment.
How to Support Someone with Depression:
- Know the Condition
A bit obvious but it is important to have a strong understanding of what depression is and how it influences a person’s mental health. At its most basic level, professionals and organizations like the American Psychiatric Association often define depression as a mental health condition that usually “…causes feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”
In simpler terms, depression is a form of mental illness that is characterized by intense feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and self-loathing, in a person’s life. These feelings become so overwhelming that they create a disruptive influence in a person’s daily life. There are also many different forms of depression, itself, that vary in the symptoms and emotional reactions people experience. High-functioning depression and bipolar disorder are just two types of depression that a person can be diagnosed with. It’s important to define and understand the specific form of depression a person is struggling with so you can find out your role as a friend or family member.
In this post, we are focusing on the more general forms of depression of which Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) are the most common forms.
- Research the Condition
Similar to defining the mental illness, it is very important to do research on the condition a person is dealing with. I have said it before and I will say it in each and every post, but doing the research on a mental health disorder is incredibly important because it shows the person that you are invested in helping them improve their condition and that you genuinely care about them. Doing research also helps you get a better sense of what a person with depression is going through and recommends even more ways you can help them.
Online resources like helpguide.org provide dependable outlines about depression and the common symptoms that accompany the condition, such as:
-Irregular sleep schedules
-Increases in irritability
-Experiencing feelings of hopelessness or self-loathing
- Practice Patience and Compassion
Those who struggle with depression often feel weighted down by the responsibilities of daily life and exhausted by the feelings of sadness and self-loathing that they are trapped in. This leaves them feeling unmotivated to participate in hobbies, work tasks, and forms of self-care—many of which come naturally to the average person. This can make accomplishing what people often consider “simple tasks” like grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and practicing personal forms of self-care incredibly difficult.
Offering to help someone who struggles with depression is a terrific way to help ease these challenges. You can send messages as reminders for this person to stay on track or help them out with minor tasks like gardening or cleaning up their living spaces. Doing so can genuinely help lift pressure off their shoulders and it’s a great way to show that you are there to support them regardless of the problems that come up.
- Give Self-Worth Reminders
Typically, depression convinces a person that they are a failure in life, which fosters little self-value and a negative self-image in this person’s life. If left unmanaged, these feelings can completely destroy the self-worth of a person with depression, effectively worsening their condition. If you know someone in your life with depression, then it may be helpful to text, email, or call them every so often to remind them of the ways that they make you smile and the reasons that you love them. Even if they don’t believe it at first, this can be a beneficial method to boosting the person’s confidence and sense of self-worth.
- Keep Them Busy
For someone with a form of depression, it can be very harmful to have too much free-time because it often breeds levels of social isolation and overthinking that help them internalize their negative thoughts. You may be able to help someone counteract these obstacles by encouraging them to get involved in a hobby or activity that you can do together. Hiking, art classes, or sports are some terrific suggestions—just something you can bond over and they can keep busy with. Don’t put too much pressure on them to do so, though. It is harder for people with depression to find joy in daily activities and many aspects of life, and their counselor may have other alternatives for them to participate in. Even so, introducing hobbies into this person’s life may help them work on developing routines in daily life and discourage thoughts of self-loathing.
All of these points are merely suggestions, and, like anything, they may be more or less helpful from person to person. Depression affects each individual differently and it’s important to talk with the person first to see how they are feeling and what they are doing to improve their condition. I hope that some of these ideas can help you reach out to the people in your life who struggle with depression and for those of you that do, I hope that you can share these suggestions to help people in your life stay connected and informed with you despite your mental illness.
I highly suggest you take a look at PSYCOM’s article Helping Someone Who is Depressed or beyondblue.org to learn more about depression and what you can do to support someone you know who has been diagnosed.
I hope that the recommendations I have offered will encourage you to have open discussions about depression in your life and advocate for those who struggle with it.
Do you know of any helpful ways to assist someone with depression? What are some programs that people need to get more involved in to raise awareness? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share this post to spread the word.
As always, remember to make your mind a priority and take care –