Depression is not an easy thing to go through.
It’s a condition that follows people through their lives, a metaphorical black dog that’s difficult to run from.
When someone close to us is suffering with depression, it’s natural to want to help. But oftentimes, people aren’t sure where to start, or whether they can really make a difference. Well, we’re here to tell you that you can, and here’s how you start.
1. Learn more about the condition.
If someone close to you is experiencing depression, one of the most helpful things that you can do to help them is to learn more about the condition. Truly understanding depression isn’t easy from the outside, but learning more about it means you’re less likely to make incorrect assumptions about living with depression, and treating depression.
2. Understand that treatment is a necessity.
Many people mistakenly believe that treating depression is as easy as ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘getting a good night’s sleep’. In truth, depression is a very complex condition, one for which there is no “one size fits all” cure. Treating depression is a highly individual endeavour, but understanding that outside treatments are necessary for your loved one, and not undermining that, will be very helpful.
3. Support the treatment they choose.
Depression can be treated and managed in a variety of ways, and in learning about depression, you might have read about a certain treatment with a high rate of success. However, this doesn’t mean you should pressure your loved one into opting for that treatment. Making the decision to treat depression is a difficult time for depression sufferers, and the last thing they need is to be told that their own thoughts about their treatment are wrong. Instead of questioning their choice, support their decision to undertake whatever treatment they choose, and encourage them to see it through.
4. Let them know you’re here to talk.
At times, it can feel very difficult to get through to people suffering with depression. The condition often makes people feel as though their opinions and conversations aren’t worth listening to. One very helpful thing that friends and loved ones of someone with depression can do is to let that person know they’re there for them. This can manifest in a number of ways. You could offer to drive them to treatment, or pick them up, or you could just broach the topic when you are together and both in a relaxed state.
5. Keep in touch.
Keeping in touch is such an important thing to do when you’re trying to help someone to manage their depression. Even the smallest gesture can have the biggest effect. Whether you’re just calling someone on a regular basis, or making a dedicated effort to meet them once a week for a coffee to catch up, it really does help. Just having someone who you know is there for you can make the journey from severe depression that much easier, and even if your loved one doesn’t always appear to appreciate your efforts, you can be sure that some part of them does.
6. Help the focus on small successes.
Managing depression is a long game, it’s not something that happens overnight. That’s why as the people supporting someone going through treatment for depression, it’s a great idea to help them focus on the small successes. When you’re depressed, it can feel impossible to even get out of bed in the morning, and having something positive to focus on is great. Provide as many of these positive successes, no matter how small, to your loved one to help them through.
7. Pay attention to risk factors.
Moving on from depression is not like climbing a staircase, it’s like scrambling up a muddy hill. Backsliding is something that can happen for a number of reasons, but there’s often a triggering event. Paying attention to what is happening in the life of your loved one when they’re working through a depressive episode is very helpful in preparing yourself for a possible backslide. For example, if they lose their job, end a relationship, or have another emotionally stressful experience, you’ll be better prepared to help them work through it.