When someone is dealing with depression or anxiety they are often not the only ones who are suffering. Trying to help someone who’s depressed is often a frustrating, confusing experience. You want to see them get better, but at the same time, you don’t want to do anything that might make the situation worse. As a result, interactions can become tense, simply because you’re trying not to make a mistake.
If you do say or do something that’s poorly received, there’s a danger of becoming resentful that your best efforts are not appreciated. So, how to help someone with depression? Mental health professionals suggest you try some of the following methods.
First Things First: Understanding What You’re Up Against
Before you’re in a position to offer help you need to have a good idea of what depression is and what it isn’t. So let’s begin with a quick primer on this vexing condition.
- It is a serious condition – Every year untold numbers of depressed people end their own lives. This should be evidence enough that this is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. So don’t underestimate it, don’t trivialize it and don’t think you’re going to wave some magic motivational wand and everything’s going to be better. It’s going to take time and effort.
- It’s not personal – Family and friends sometimes take it personally when a depressed person doesn’t respond to their efforts in a positive way. They may even think the depressed person is getting some kind of joy out of putting up roadblocks to help. Keep in mind that the depressed person is often just as confused and upset as you are. So don’t take it personally.
- It is possible to recover – There may come a time when you are tempted to throw in the towel and walk away. “I tried” is a common response to depression. Try to remember that depression isn’t like a cold or flu that can be expected to pass in a few days. There is no set timeline for recovery. But recovery is possible. So be patient and get on with your own life in the meantime.
- It’s not a character flaw – When their best efforts seem to get nowhere, people are often tempted to resort to blaming the depressed person. “They’re just lazy” and “They just want attention” are common responses to being rebuffed. Try to remember depression is not a character flaw. It’s a serious and often stubborn medical condition.
How to Help Someone with Depression?
Now that we have a better idea of what depression is and isn’t let’s look at how to help someone with depression.
- Positive reinforcement – Tell the depressed person you care and that they’re important to you. Listen when they want to speak and don’t judge. Instead of telling them you understand, just listen. Or hold their hand. Or let them cry on your shoulder. The important thing is not to expect an immediate response. Often this type of support has an incremental effect that is real but hard to measure.
- Leave the tough love at the door – Whether you’re treating a broken arm or depression, it’s crucial that you use appropriate treatments. Tough love has its place. But not when it comes to helping someone with depression. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken arm to just “get over it”. And you shouldn’t say that to someone with depression.
- Resist comparing your experience with theirs – When someone’s going through a hard time it’s common to offer solace by relating how you got through your own difficult situation. But unless you’ve recovered from depression yourself this type of approach is likely to backfire. It may seem like you’re trying to make light of their condition.
- Stay connected – Above all, don’t become resentful and withdraw from the depressed person’s life. Stay connected with them while going on about your own business. Stay upbeat and show that your love is not contingent upon their physical, mental or emotional state. You care about them and that’s that.
Remember that recovery from depression is possible although it sometimes takes longer than we wish it would. The key is to be patient, don’t take it personally and try and separate the person from the condition. There is an array of treatments available that can help with depression today. One that has shown extraordinary promise in recent years is ketamine. Some are saying it as the biggest breakthrough in depression treatment in decades. Make sure that when treatments are discussed for your loved one that ketamine treatment is considered.