Whether you’ve gone through depression yourself or have seen a loved one go through it, you know it can be difficult on all those surrounding the individual. It’s not the person’s fault, and it is not your fault. It’s just the way it is. If the person is willing to seek treatment, there are many treatment models for depression. However, we also must find a way to navigate this experience ourselves in order to both be there for the other person and take care of ourselves.
If you or somebody you know may be at risk of causing harm to themselves, you may reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free at (800) 273-8255. This post is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat depression, and we encourage you and your loved one to seek appropriate clinical help.
Find Professional Help
Of course this is our first suggestion. There’s really nothing quite as beneficial as trained clinicians who know what they’re doing. Of course you can’t necessarily force somebody to see a therapist or seek help, but you can gently encourage them. It’s good to have something in mind in the case that the person is willing to get help in a moment. There are helplines, therapists, psychiatrists, and even inpatient treatment centers for depression that can offer your loved one the help they need.
You can perhaps look with them for the right care if they wish to do so. Sometimes, people want to take part in their recovery and get back this sense of control. Other times, you may need to find a place for them and be ready for the moment that they’re willing to get help. With the exception of things like the 5150 psychiatric hold in California, you cannot make somebody get help. However, you can find help and make sure they know it is available.
When somebody in your life is struggling with depression, it is helpful to learn a little bit about their experience and what depression really is. You don’t want to annoy the person by prying, asking too many questions, or treating their experience like a novelty, but you can perhaps try connecting with the person and what they’re going through. This isn’t to say we should challenge someone with depression about their experience. Rather, acknowledge your own inexperience and lack of knowledge and seek to understand. The benefits are two-fold. We both let the other person know they’re cared for and build our own ability to respond with compassion.
You may also try doing some research. The Families for Depression Awareness website has a lot of great information, as does the National Institute on Mental Health. As you grow in your understanding of major depressive disorder, you can meet the person with more compassion and understanding.
Don’t Give Up
It can be difficult dealing with an individual experiencing depression. We tire ourselves out trying to help, we don’t have control over the situation, and we can sometimes grow frustrated. These are normal experiences, and you don’t need to be ashamed of your own feelings. You also don’t need to give up on the person. Depression is hard for everyone involved, and you’re not alone. There are websites like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offering help, support groups like Emotions Anonymous, and therapists that can help you find some support.
Recovery from depression isn’t linear. The person may come in and out of periods of depression as they seek help or try to get better. We know how hard this can be to watch, especially when we can’t seem to fix it. What we can do is continue to show love, care, and kindness to the person. Depression can cause intense feelings of loneliness and it can be helpful to be there for the person if you’re able.
Take Care of Yourself
On the flipside of the last suggestion, you also need to take care of yourself. This doesn’t mean we have to give up on an individual. What it does mean is that we need to find practices that help us approach the experience with some ease. This may be through support groups, a meditation practice, or spending time with friends. Maybe it’s something as simple as taking a little space for ourselves and taking a deep breath. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there to take care of others!
Offer & Ask
This is important. When you tell someone experiencing depression to do something, they may not be able to do so. That’s right. It’s not just that they don’t want to; they may not be able to. Depression can take all of our energy away, and having someone tell us to do something can be overwhelming. Knowing this, we can ask and offer to do things.
Examples may be going for a walk, having a meal together, or simply spending time together. Depression can be greatly helped by light exercise, healthy eating, and spending time with loved ones. However, you don’t need to demand that the person do anything. Instead, you can gently ask and offer. If you guilt trip too much, you may leave the person feeling more poorly about themselves than they would otherwise. If you offer kindly, you may get a yes and have an opportunity to make a difference in their day.
Again, if somebody you know is experiencing depression, we highly recommend seeking professional help. The person may take a simple depression assessment, but a trained clinician is the best person to assess the state of the person’s mental health.