We don’t often talk about how helpless one can feel when they witness someone they love go through something as debilitating and distressing as clinical depression. People who suffer from this condition often lose their ability to function and go through bouts of suicidal ideation. It can cause the person to experience a decrease in vitality, but in their physical health as well.
But thankfully, we live in a time when we know so much more about depression than ever before. While we are far from truly finding an effective and lasting way to keep depression at bay, we know enough to help keep symptoms at bay. Experts say that for depressed people to experience some semblance of healing and recovery, support from their community is vital.
If someone you love is battling depression, here are some practical ways you can extend love, care, and support.
Help meet their felt needs
It may seem illogical to neurotypical people, but people who are going through a difficult depressive episode might find it impossible to do day-to-day tasks like eating, doing their laundry or groceries, showering, and even getting out of bed. If someone you love is going through an increasingly challenging depressive episode or season, one of the best things you can do for them is to ensure that their physical and felt needs are met. These are some ways this support can manifest in practical ways:
- Plan their meals for them. You can prepare meals days in advance and place them in microwavable containers, so they can just heat the food when it’s time to eat.
- If they are running low on funds for medication and therapy, help find ways to raise money for them without compromising their dignity. Some people are not comfortable with GoFundMe or being too public about the fundraising, so consider other ways, like connecting them with a reliable social security disability attorney who can help them file for disability claims. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), depression is considered a psychiatric disability, so they might be eligible for financial assistance from the government. You could be the person that can help assist them as they try to gain access to this financial support.
Be present, especially if they’re experiencing suicidal ideation. Now more than ever, their physical safety is crucial. Make sure they have no access to items that can help them go through with their plan. Don’t be too quick to offer quick solutions or advice; sometimes, just your physical and emotional presence is enough to communicate that you are there for them and you are not going anywhere, no matter how hard the situation is. It sends the message that they are loved without you having to say it (but you can say it too).
Stay vigilant and watchful of potential relapses
If your loved one has been in recovery for a while and has made great strides towards healing, then make sure to watch out for potential signs of a relapse. While depression is not a curable condition just yet, it is treatable, so and people with depression can still live long, healthy, and happy lives. Understand that the symptoms of depression can flare up periodically, so make sure you have a plan for getting your loved one back on track. This can include staying connected with their doctor encouraging healthy lifestyle habits that can help keep their symptoms at bay.
Know your limitations as a family member or friend
If you are not a trained or licensed mental health professional, then the best thing you can do for your depressed loved one is to ensure that they get the medical help and treatment they need. If they are receptive to treatment, then go with them to their doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions. However, if they are resistant to the idea of going to a mental health professional, ask them open-ended questions to draw out the reasons why they’re hesitating. Here are some ways to encourage them to go to therapy:
- Ask them how they feel whenever they go to therapy, or after they’ve taken their medication. Maybe they have unpleasant memories and experiences which tarnished their view of the course of treatment.
- Avoid being pushy, listen to their experiences and feelings, and validate them.
- Lead with love and empathy. Try to leverage their relationships with the people that love them, and tell them how much it would mean to all of you if they go to therapy. But don’t give an ultimatum because it might cause them more emotional distress.
Caring for depressed loved ones is hard work, but the goal is ultimately worth it. Hang in there and believe that brighter days are ahead.