9 Ways To Help Depressed Friends Or Family
Depression sucks, no matter what form it comes in. Today, being World Mental Health Day, it is time to focus on this mental issue that has plagued millions of people in the world.
In Nigeria, an estimated 20%–30% of our population is believed to suffer from mental health disorders. Unfortunately, the attention given to these disorders in Nigeria is poor. We need to recognise mental health disorders as a disease and educate Nigerians on how important support in the family and society is and to avoid stigmatising people suffering from mental disorders.
Depression is unique and responds to different treatments but there are some general things you can try to guide your depressed friend or family member down the path of healing and recovery.
So if you know someone going through depression but are not sure what to do, check the tips below for some tips for helping them through depression.
1. Be there
This is the best thing you can do for someone who is depressed. When you’re feeling down, having someone just sit there with you holding your hand, giving you a hug while you cried, or just saying warm things like “we will find a way to make you feel better” helps to heal you just a little bit. In the same way, depressed people need support to fully recover; they need people who will listen to them rant and remind them that they are not alone. Research shows that support groups aid the recovery of a person struggling with depression and decrease chances of relapse. You can also show support in other ways, like sending a card, text or voice note, or cooking a meal.
2. Learn about depression
People are becoming better educated about depression and anxiety, but we still have a long way to go. Some people assume that if a person with depression has a good day, they’re cured. But depression fluctuates. Someone who’s feeling hopeless may still laugh at a joke, the same way a child who is in despair may still attend class, get good grades and even seem cheerful. Learn basic knowledge about what your loved one is suffering to know what they are going through and avoid any misunderstandings. Learn about the symptoms, course and consequences.
The most powerful way to connect to someone is just to listen. Make eye contact, open your ears. Care about what they’re saying. Most times, caring about it is even more important than understanding it. If they feel like talking, ask them how they’re doing, what they find helpful and what you can do to help. Ask when they first started to feel bad or what may have triggered it. Do they have suicidal thoughts? Is there anything that makes them feel better? What makes them feel worse? Are they under pressure at work? You know them better than most mental health professionals, so help them solve the riddle of their symptoms. Together, consider what could be at the root of their depression: physiologically, emotionally, or spiritually. But if they don’t feel like talking, let them know you’re still there for them.
4. Take their feelings seriously
It is not possible for someone who is suffering from depression to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it” or “forget about it”. Depression is a serious issue and should be handled as such. Unless you’ve experienced a depressive episode yourself, saying that you know how a person with depression feels is not helpful. While your intention is probably to help your loved one feel less alone, saying this is insensitive and can isolate your loved one even more.
5. Mind what you say
What you say can have a powerful impact on your loved one, whether good or bad. Avoid saying things like “Why do you let every little thing bother you? I think this is really all just in your head. If you got up out of bed and moved around, you’d see things better.” These words shame them and imply that your loved one has a choice in how they feel and has chosen to be depressed.
6. Pass on hope
Saying something like ‘you won’t always feel this way” is a simple statement of truth that holds the most powerful healing element of all: hope. Help them believe that they will get better again. Once their heart is there, their mind and body will follow. Also constantly remind them of their strengths when they feel down. Boost their confidence by reminding them of the strong accomplishments they’ve made.
7. Encourage them to get professional help
Let them know that you’re worried about them. Learn to have a conversation about suicide and safety planning. Ask if they’ve thought about ending their life. It is important for someone with depression to seek professional help so recommend that they visit a general practitioner. Offer to go with them if they need extra support. If they aren’t ready, don’t put pressure on them or it may discourage them further. But you can encourage them to try to speak to someone they can trust like a teacher or family member.
8. Be patient
When you are patient with a depressed loved one, you’re letting them know that it doesn’t matter how long it will take, how the treatments will be or how difficult because you will be there. Patience like this brings hope and can go a long way in helping them recover. Supporting someone with depression can be difficult and you may not know what to do at times. Never intentionally be impatient with them, push their boundaries, use silence, be callous or even give an ultimatum like “You better snap out of it or I’m going to leave”. Remember that just by being there and asking how you can help can be an incredible gift.
9. Take care of yourself
Dealing with someone who is experiencing depression can be frustrating and exhausting. But you can be there to support your friend only if you look after yourself first. Monitor your mood and stress levels. Make sure you’ve got the time to do your favourite things. Relax. Relaxation helps you to unwind and deal with stress. You aren’t going to be able to be there for your friend all of the time. Ask for support. You need your own emotional support. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling. Find out more about what to do if they don’t want help.
It may seem like a lot to do, but these things will help your friend or family member who is suffering from depression to recover.