Coping with depression can make you feel so powerless.
It can seem as if you have absolutely no control over what’s happening.
If that is so when you’re the one suffering from the condition, what if you’re the friend or family member of someone who’s depressed?
As much as you may like it, it’s impossible to simply snap your fingers and wish your loved one wasn’t depressed anymore. And so, while you may not be the one struggling with this condition, that feeling of powerlessness can be amplified even more as you see your loved one suffer.
However, take heart. There are many things that you can do to help your friend or family member better cope with depression.
Consider these six practical tips.
1. Be Willing to Listen
One of the toughest aspects of depression is the belief that nobody understands or “gets” what’s going on. T
his causes a depressed person to feel alone and isolated. It has the effect of amplifying their low mood, making them feel even more depressed.
That’s why it’s helpful to have someone who “gets it” and is willing to listen. The result is that your depressed friend or family member will feel better understood and less isolated.
2. Avoid Being Judgmental
Depressed people often struggle with feeling judged for experiencing depression. In fact, some may even be told that they are being selfish. Why is that? Maybe it’s because they’re neglecting responsibilities such as family members to look after or work they need to do.
However, just because there are things that need to get done doesn’t mean that a depressed person’s feelings are any less valid. Or that they should push their depression to the side and just “get over it.” That’s simply not possible.
Instead, when you listen to your depressed friend or family member, hold off on judging them and rather show them empathy. Your compassionate and unbiased attitude will help them to feel more connected and understood.
3. Engaged Them in Activities
Another way you can help a depressed loved one is by encouraging them to get out and do things with you. Maybe it’s playing cards or attending a ball game. Working out is a great idea too. Really, though, it’s whatever it is that you b
oth enjoy and like to spend time doing.
Having an adventure buddy can help someone who’s depressed shake off the cobwebs and find some temporary relief. One of the typical symptoms of depression is that they lose interest in things and activities that they once enjoyed. You can help your friend or family member combat this by being willing to spend time together that’s fun and engaging.
4. Laugh Together!
Laughter is such a powerful expression of emotion. It really does have the ability to heal and help a depre
ssed person feel better. That’s because when you laugh your brain releases endorphins, which affect your mood in a positive way.
For someone who is suffering from depression, laughter really can bring relief. So don’t be afraid to crack a joke or find the humor in situations. Your friend or family member will likely thank you. It might be that laughter is just what they needed right then.
5. Stay Vigilant for Any Changes
Nobody likes the idea of having to keep a constant eye on someone, especially a friend or family member
. It seems intrusive and even a little restrictive. Yet, that’s what your depressed loved one needs right now. Someone who is willing to keep their best interests in mind and observing their behavior.
What should you watch for?
- Significant and/or sudden changes in mood (Have they been down for a long time, but suddenly their ood has changed?)
- Exhibiting “gallows humor” that is especially dark and foreboding, particularly about themselves
- Overuse of alcohol or abuse of drugs
- Self-harm and thoughts of death or suicide
If you are concerned that your loved one is an immediate threat to themselves, call for help right away.
Finally, encourage your loved one to seek out professional counseling for depression treatment. A knowledgeable therapist will be able to provide another leg of support and help them identify the reasons why they are depressed. Also, a therapist who understands depression can guide your loved one to having compassion for themselves.
Unfortunately, all-to-often depressed people blame themselves for their condition. When, in reality, there are many factors that influence depression. These range from personal experiences (trauma) to biology and even genetics. Obviously, nobody chooses to become depressed!
It’s great that you want to help your depressed friend or family member. Everyone needs a person in their lives who’s willing to stick things out through thick-or-thin.
There is clearly much you can do, including being a positive source of encouragement and a good listener. However, keep in mind that treating depression also requires professional support. Encourage your loved one to get the help they need.