How to help someone with depression without falling prey to depression yourself? Many of you who live with a depressive ask themselves this question. There’s no doubt that depression makes family bonds fall apart and affects other family member’s mental health.
From my Mom’s experience, I can tell you that depressed people may be unbearable to live with;-) Feeling normal again, I can see what I didn’t see in the middle of a depression episode. Now, I admire her for managing to stay sane while she witnesses me struggle so much with life. I know I’m lucky. Having experienced it herself, she knows what depression is and she understands.
I imagine that if you’re a caregiver of a depressive, worry and stress are a part of your life. In the worst cases, you never know what you will find when you come back home, especially with suicidal depressives… Depressed people are terribly self-centered and manipulative. You may think you should put all your needs aside and give compassion and support. But over time, as you feel guilty for not being able to cure your loved one and suffer isolation and rejection yourself, your frustration only grows…
Here is what you can do when someone you love has depression, and how you can avoid the depression fallout.
Ways To Help A Depressed Person
1. Educate yourself and know the symptoms
Depression is not just sadness. If you want to help a depressed person, the very thing you should do is to learn everything you can about this illness. If you have never experienced the deepest despair yourself, you probably won’t be able to understand it, but knowledge gives you the power to act consciously.
Read more about the symptoms of depression here: Depressed or Just Sad? 10 Signs Of Depression You Shouldn’t Ignore
2. Show that you care
Sometimes it’s enough to give a hug or hold one’s hand. Nobody expects you to solve the problem, but I suggest that you let your loved one know how much you want them to recover. It may sound like a manipulation, but make them feel like if they don’t want to recover for themselves, they should try it for you, and that you will be heartbroken if they give up the struggle.
3. Listen and just be there for them
The feeling of extreme loneliness in a crowd is the most dreadful part of depression. By being there for your depressed friend and listening while they share their struggle, you neutralize their social isolation. Also, sharing toxic thought makes letting go easier. Don’t belittle their emotional struggle – just listen and ask questions in a non-judgmental way.
4. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help
One of the best things you can do to help a depressed loved one is to convince them to seek treatment and make sure they take the medication prescribed and attend their therapy sessions. Depression is a very serious, but treatable mental illness. If you manage to make them realize that life can be beautiful again if only they undergo the treatment, you have already helped a lot. It all starts with getting a diagnosis.
5. Don’t expect them to have sex
If you’re in a sexual relationship with someone who’s depressed, it gets really hard. While hugging or cuddling is more than welcome, a person with depression may feel no sexual desire or motivation to make love. Low self-esteem and anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure) make it even worse. Lack of sexual desire may also be a side effect of medication, so you should never take it personally. Encourage, but never put pressure or demand! They already feel guilty for it.
6. Don’t blame your depressed loved one for being depressed
It’s not their fault, not it is a character flaw. Nobody chooses to be depressed, and suggesting that they don’t try hard enough to overcome depression is not making things any easier. Assume they’re already doing their best and applaud any recovery progress you notice.
7. Help them out even with the simplest household tasks
Don’t take depression for laziness. For a depressed person, most everyday small tasks are overwhelming, so they will be grateful if you just do the laundry, clean the apartment or cook something delicious instead of expecting them to “get their sh* together”. One a better day, give your depressed partner a simple task they can handle and show your appreciation for the result.
8. Take suicide threats seriously
For someone who’s depressed, suicide is a real danger. It’s not that they really want to die – it’s rather about putting an end to the unbearable pain of existence, something that no healthy mind can understand. Life just doesn’t make sense anymore and death seems to be the solution. Pay attention to what they say. The first few weeks after starting medication are especially important because some antidepressants may intensify suicidal thoughts at the beginning. If you suspect that situation is serious, don’t hesitate to call for the emergencies.
Ways To Help Yourself As A Caregiver
9. Don’t blame or punish yourself for your loved one’s depression
There are many causes of depression and, usually, it is not so easy to determine why one suffers from it, while another person in an objectively similar or worse situation somehow manages to cope. It’s also not your fault that all the things you do for them don’t work. If you feel guilty, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist yourself. A mental health professional will help you feel better and give you the necessary support so you can go on fighting.
10. Take good care of yourself
It’s common to focus all your attention and energy on your partner when they’re seriously ill. Being extremely self-centered and unconcerned about others is a symptom of depression. But you still have your own needs. Make sure that you eat well and receive enough sleep. Take some time to relax and, once in a while, meet some supportive, mentally healthy people. Bear in mind that depression may be contagious.
11. Accept your own emotions
It’s okay to feel sad or angry, or helpless when you’re doing everything you can to help someone with depression, but nothing seems to work. It is perfectly normal to feel frustrated when you keep getting rejected.
12. Set healthy boundaries
Don’t treat your understanding of this illness as an excuse for depressive’s abusive behavior. Outbursts of rage and insults are unacceptable, no matter how depressed they are. In case of threats, harassment, and violence leaving is the best choice you can make to protect yourself from further abuse.
How To Help Someone With Depression: RESOURCES
There are several good self-help books on dealing with depression, but just a few on how to help someone with depression, written for the family and partners of people suffering from this mental illness.=.
Anne Sheffield’s book offers a great support for those coping with the depression of a loved one. It provides a great deal of medical information, heart-warming anecdotes, and useful advice on how to help someone with depression in an effective way. You will also learn to set healthy boundaries, take care of yourself, and find encouragement not to give up on your love and happiness. This book is a road map that will show you the way out of your confusion and help preserve the bond.
From the point of view of someone with depression, I can tell you it’s terrible and eye-opening to read what I am putting my family through… but I’m grateful for what I have learned from this book.
I hope you will find my advice on how to help someone with depression useful. It’s not easy and it may seem to you that they don’t appreciate your efforts, but once they overcome their illness, they will remember and be grateful for your support.
Stay strong and don’t give up (unless it doesn’t make sense to persist).
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