Depression is a mental health problem. Nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody wants to get depression. Nobody wants to stay in it. But it’s not as easy to combat it. People with depression are not weak, lazy, selfish, lack willpower, or have some character flaw that led them to be depressed. They have a real health issue. They don’t imagine it and they don’t enjoy it. Their brain works in a different way. That’s why pep talks and advice giving don’t work. So what can you do to support a loved one who has depression?
First and foremost, be accepting and don’t judge.
The “If I were in your place, I would have…” just doesn’t work, because you are NOT in this person’s place. The last thing the person with depression wants to hear is that what they have is not good for them -of course, they know it!
Just try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Try to understand how they think and how they feel. Don’t try the “Yes, but you should” approach, as in “Yes, I hear that you feel down today, but you should be happy, so many things go well in your life.” It doesn’t help.
Remind your loved one that you love them, they are important, they matter. State “I am here with you,” “You are not alone,” “Maybe I don’t understand exactly how you feel, but I see you are in pain and I care about you and want to help you,” “You are important and you matter to me,” “Tell me how I can support you best in this.”
Make yourself available to talk, go for a walk or a cup of coffee. Getting out of the house, gentle exercise, connecting with nature are all great ways to lift the mood, even a tiny bit. Of course, people with depression lack the motivation to do even simple things, so you can gently suggest “I understand that you may not feel like it right now, but would you try to go on a walk with me? And we can return whenever you want.”
Acknowledge their feelings.
Trying to compare how they feel to other people less fortunate or with bigger problems is simply not helpful. In fact, it cut be detrimental, as the person with depression may think you don’t understand and you don’t support them, so they will stop talking to you about their feelings.
Depression is an illness. Think how hard it is to live with an illness that robs you of the small pleasures of life. Remind yourself that your loved one goes through a difficult process that they didn’t choose.
Don’t try to rush your loved one into snapping out of it or pushing them to do things they don’t want to or can’t do. Depression runs in cycles and it ebbs and flows. Symptoms may be masked and not present all the time. By being patient and supportive you give your loved one a message of hope- you will be there for them no matter what, and there’s an end to that (which they probably can’t see).
Don’t go the way of pep talks and advice.
It just doesn’t work! books with beautiful pictures and quotes on serenity, positivity, happiness, etc. maybe pleasing to the eye and not offending.
Don’t try the “tough love” approach, it doesn’t work.
Instead of threatening “I will leave you,” “I won’t call till you get your act together,” etc. do some of the ideas offered above.
Educate yourself about depression.
Learn as much as you can about depression. Learn to recognize the symptoms and respond to them. Ask “How can I help you?” and “Have you thought about seeing a professional for help?”