If you have a friend, partner or a family member struggling with depression, it is quite common to feel confused about their care. Depression usually leaves the person feeling isolated and overwhelmed, which can negatively impact relationships. It is important to understand that they need support and care just as anyone suffering from a physical ailment.
We’ve listed out a few ways that you can help your loved ones.
One of the easiest and most effective ways you can help is by simply being present. It need not be a grand gesture, just be around when they end up crying or are feeling lost. Offering words of encouragement and support like “Please tell me what can I do to help” or “Let’s find a way to help you feel a bit better” can serve as a soothing salve.
Make small gestures
Small gestures like sending a short text, a quick call, or making a meal can really help the individual feel better as it reinforces their connection with loved ones.
Refrain from passing judgment
Your words can have a strong impact, especially to those who are depressed. Avoid sentences that convey things like their situation is just a temporary phase or that they will snap out of it within a few days. This only implies that you feel your loved one is feeling depressed of his own accord. These hurtful, insensitive words can leave them feeling even sadder and alienate from you altogether.
Do not adopt the tough-love method when interacting with a depressed loved one. Making your impatience intentionally apparent, deliberately avoiding communication or serving ultimatums do nothing but hurt and confuse the person. Your goal must be to be empathetic to their situation and not push them further into the same pit of loneliness and despair that they are grappling with on a daily basis.
Do not belittle their pain
Avoid shaming a depressed person for feeling a certain way about a situation. Making flippant statements like, “Don’t let it get to you” may come across you trying to trivialise their pain. It is important to understand that their feel so due to the disorder that they are suffering from and invalidating the same as a flaw in their behaviour can end up hurting the individual.
Try not to offer advice
When we have a friend or a loved one struggling with a situation, it is only natural to want to comfort them with words of advice or guidance. However, for a depressed individual, the words can only leave them feeling even more detached from you. Instead of trying to pump them up with words, ask questions like: “How can I help you feel better?” This will make them want to seek out your help without feeling like you are trying to trivialise their suffering.
Do not compare
Statements like, “I know how you feel, I completely understand” are not helpful at all. The depth of pain and despair a depressed person feels is nothing compared to what you may feel when faced with a similar situation. You may mean well and hope to comfort them with your words, but it will only make your loved one shut you out.
One of the easiest ways to understand something you do not know is by learning about it—and this applies to depression as well. Try to read as much as you can about the symptoms associated with the disorder and any such credible pieces of information. It is vital to know that all days ain’t the same for a depressed individual and a good day or two might not mean that they are cured. Understanding depressive symptoms and behavioural patterns will certainly help you understand your loved one better and prevent making any comments or actions that may hurt them.
One of the most important aspects of supporting your depressed friend is by being patient with them. This will help them know that you are there for them, regardless of how long it takes them to recover, on good days and bad or when they begin treatment. Your steadfast support can help them hope that there will be a day where they will not have to live under the weight of the debilitating ailment.
On most occasions, it may feel like you are walking on eggshells around your friend for the fear of upsetting them. It is best to adopt a more passive but loving approach in such situations, by simply letting them know that you are not abandoning them and are there whenever they need you.