“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.” – Elizabeth Wurtzel
Depression can be very difficult to deal with on your own, and professionals recommend seeking out friends and support systems to help with handling the daily feelings that depression brings. It’s very likely that someone you currently know is dealing with depression and at some point they may contact you for emotional support and help.
Psychologist Selena C. Snow, PhD, says, “A depressed person has an opportunity to learn that they are not the only one suffering in silence as they gain support and empathy from others who understand the depths of their pain. And they benefit from the encouragement of peers to take small steps forward.”
If you’ve never experienced depression, you may not know the best ways to handle a friend or family member who is suffering from it, so learning a few small tips on how to help them feel accepted and stable can be very beneficial. If you find yourself being a support for a loved one who is depressed, here are eight ways to help them feel like themselves again, and to let them know you value their feelings and love them.
HERE ARE 8 TIPS THAT HELP A PERSON WITH DEPRESSION FEEL ACCEPTED AND HAPPY AGAIN
1. DON’T PRETEND IT DOESN’T EXIST
Depression is a serious condition, so pretending that it isn’t there won’t make it go away. It can be natural to think that staying the same and acting like everything is normal can be helpful to a depressed loved one, but it can actually make them feel that their feelings are not valid. Make sure to acknowledge what they are going through, and show that you understand how hard it can be for them. When someone knows you recognize their condition, and still accept them, this is a great sign of love and brings a bit of relief.
2. DON’T TRY TO FIX THEM
If it were this easy, then one visit to a professional psychologist would be all it takes to cure anyone who is depressed. In reality, depression has many causes and symptoms; it’s more complicated. Rather than trying to fix your family member or friend, it helps to realize that they aren’t broken. Rather, they’re dealing with a common, and sometimes serious condition that mainly only professionals know how to help cope with and cure.
According to WebMD, “To get better, your person needs professional help from a doctor or therapist. Depression is a medical illness. You wouldn’t try to cure a friend’s diabetes on your own. You shouldn’t try curing depression, either.”
As good as your intentions are to ‘fix’ them, they aren’t broken, and a professional psychologist is going to be their best option – so don’t try to fix them. They need support and love, not a quick fix.
3. EASY ON THE POSITIVITY
Being a source of support and positivity for your depressed loved one that they can depend on when they reach out to you is very important. However, don’t firehose them with so much positivity thinking that it will somehow change them. If done too much, it might make them feel worse since they are currently unable to feel better on their own. For someone suffering, having ideas or other feelings pushed or forced on them can be uncomfortable as well. Stay positive with your loved one, but maintain balance and respect their feelings and their space to feel their feelings as well.
4. LET THEM TALK IT OUT
Allow your friend or family member to talk about how they feel, even if the feelings seem negative or its being ‘unproductive’. Being heard helps the depressed person to not feel isolated and is healing.
“Don’t avoid the person because you can’t think of something clever to say – someone who can listen is valuable. Sometimes just being there with them is valuable, so don’t put pressure on them to have something to say either. Make it clear that you want them to feel free to talk about anything that’s on their mind – but only when they feel able to,” psychiatrist Michael Simpson advises.
Being able to talk through their difficult feelings can be very therapeutic and helpful, so resist the need to give advice, but rather reflect back to them the content and feelings that you hear them saying in a non-judgmental way. Let them know you’re always there for them to talk to.
5. VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS
Everyone deserves to feel heard and to have their feeling validated. Even if your loved one’s feelings don’t make clear sense, it helps to reflect back their feelings to them and to show that you understand. If for example your depressed friend says, “I just don’t feel good about anything recently,” you can say, “I can hear how nothing feeling exciting or motivating recently.” Acknowledging their feelings and situation helps them to lose their own self-judgment for feeling depressed. Emotions are neutral – it’s how we deal with them and what we do in reaction that can be maladaptive. Helping to validate their feelings can make it easier for them to deal with them.
6. BE SUPPORTIVE
A depressed loved one might find it difficult to reach out to someone for help when they need it. So it’s very important that you are there to offer your love and support when they need it. Let them know that you care about them and you want them to know that you are there for them when they need it, and that you want them to please ask anytime.
Psychiatrist and author Dr. Gail Saltz explains, “Most people’s reaction—it isn’t conscious—is to pull away, get away… Know that you can talk to them without feeling what they feel. You can do a great service by reaching out. You don’t have to imagine what it feels like.”
Being supportive can be a light when someone is in a dark place. Offer your love and support without forcing it, and your loved one will surely appreciate it.
7. INVITE THEM PLACES
Being depressed can sometimes mean that all someone wants to do is stay in bed all day and rest. Invite and encourage your friend or family member to go outside and to participate in activities with you rather than staying inside for days at a time. Encouraging them without forcing can make it easier for them to accept the opportunity sometimes and helps them to get outside and create some potentially positive feelings. Even just being invited helps them to feel that everything isn’t hopeless, as someone is still trying to help them feel better.
8. SET BOUNDARIES
As much as we want to help and save our loved ones, we need to make sure to take care of ourselves as well. Set your own boundaries so that you don’t end up becoming depressed yourself. If you feel drained, exhausted, or overwhelmed, then this is a sign that you need to set a boundary and take some self-love time to recharge. If you get depressed by helping your loved one, this can actually harm them more, as they could think they are bringing you down. Keep healthy boundaries and keep yourself feeling good so that you can still be a source of their strength when they need it.
“Taking care of someone with depression can be a lot to take on. It’s important that you set aside time for yourself. Do things you enjoy. Get out of the house every now and then. Take walks, or go to the gym. Hang out with friends. You may feel guilty for thinking about yourself. But if you don’t, you’ll burn out — and that won’t help either of you,” adds WebMD.
Depression is a serious condition that affects many, and has various causes and methods to help deal with it. You may have never been depressed, but it’s more than likely someone close to you has. Take the chance to reach out and show love to a loved one who is experiencing depression; know that you won’t fix them necessarily, but you’ll be able to support and love them while they are in their condition, and this is of great help.