If someone you know is suffering from depression, it can be tough to help them. They may be in denial and may feel that they are still themselves. Your efforts to help can make you the target of some misplaced anger, which is hard not to take personally. However, their symptoms will worsen without depression treatment. Your support can be crucial to them getting treatment and their eventual recovery. But it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some ways to help them:
First, You Need to Understand
Depression is a serious medical condition. Your loved one isn’t unmotivated or lazy. They can’t will their depressive feelings away, and ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Avoidance will almost guarantee a worsening of symptoms.
However, many depressed individuals are in denial and would love to ignore it. Their symptoms aren’t personal or targeted at you; it’s difficult for them to connect, and they will often lash out at those closest to them. Remember, you cannot fix someone else’s depression. You are not to blame or responsible for how they feel, but you can offer support in the following ways:
Learn to Identify Their Depression Symptoms
Everyone handles their depression differently, but here are the most common symptoms you will see:
- Sleeping more than normal or struggling to sleep at all
- Eating much more or less, leading to significant weight changes
- Self-medicating through substance use more than usual or socially acceptable
- Apathy about work, hobbies, love life
- Withdrawing from loved ones emotionally but also physically by social-isolating
- Complaining of physical aches and pains
- Acting moody, irritable, short-tempered, or critical
- Feeling sad, helpless, or hopeless
- Being forgetful, disorganized, or indecisive
- Feeling tired or exhausted no matter how much they sleep
Talk to Them
Starting a conversation can be difficult, but you might start by telling them what signs you’ve noticed and why you are concerned. Be prepared for them to be angry or even ignore your concerns. Let them know that you are there for them, without judgment, and will help them get through this.
If they are depressed, they may be withdrawing and isolating themselves. By expressing your concern and willingness to listen gently but persistently, you can show them you are supportive and there for them. You aren’t trying to fix them or give advice, but be a compassionate listener about their problems. You can offer encouragement and hope by telling them they aren’t alone, they are important to you, and treatment can help them feel better.
Offer to Help
Everyday tasks can be easily overwhelming to someone with depression. Offer to help with some of the practical chores or errands. Be direct, and ask what they need. Even taking a small thing off their plate can make a big difference.
You can encourage them to get help. Convincing your loved one to seek formal treatment can be difficult. Finding a local support group and offering to attend with them can make it less overwhelming. They can speak to a group rather than going to therapy one-on-one.
If they are still resistant to seeing a counselor, you can suggest a check-up with their regular physician. You can help them list the symptoms they’ve been experiencing. Depression can cloud noticeable personality changes or problematic behavior that is apparent to you.
Help Them Get Major Depression Disorder Treatment
Another way you can offer support and help is by researching treatment options. For someone who is depressed or feeling hopeless, looking up treatments is too much effort. And there are so many options to understand. For example, there are multiple classes or types of antidepressants with different side effects they need to know. Any physician can prescribe them, but a psychiatrist will be able to make the best recommendation for a person in crisis.
Additionally, there are various therapy methods for treatment, such as interpersonal, dialectical behavior, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). And then, there are alternative therapies like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). It’s a painless and non-invasive treatment for MDD that can take effect much quicker than antidepressants without their systemic side effects. Becoming familiar with all these treatment options and knowing where to find the providers eliminates the first obstacle to your loved one getting help.
Understand Suicide Risk
Even if your loved one is getting treatment, suicide is a significant and real risk of depression. Some antidepressants increase the chance of suicide because they can return energy before eliminating suicidal ideation. Be familiar with the common signs of suicidal intent. Most importantly, if your loved one is threatening suicide or you think they are at risk of harming themselves or others, do not leave them alone. Remove bottles of medications and any apparent weapons, and call their therapist’s emergency line, a suicide hotline, or 9-1-1.
In the end, it’s up to your friend or family member to fight through their depression with professional help and support from you. You cannot fix their depression for them. You cannot help someone else if you don’t care for yourself. Lead by example: set healthy boundaries for yourself, keep your life on track, and seek support if things get too overwhelming. Lastly, be patient. Depression is a lifelong illness, so they can relapse or have ups and downs. Initial and subsequent treatments take time, and your continued support and patience are crucial to recovery each time.