If you know someone living with depression, then the most important detail to bear in mind is that you are not alone. Over 300 million children and adults worldwide are dealing with depression, and countless family and friends are also affected by watching their loved ones suffer from the affliction. Caring for a person who has depression can be exhausting and mentally draining, but there are approaches that can help you maintain your mental stability while also offering a sympathetic ear to your friend or family member.
Truly listen to your loved ones about what they’re feeling. You might be tempted to make statements like, “I completely understand,” or “We’ve all been there before.” However, this is not an effective approach. It’s better to validate their feelings instead of comparing or minimizing them. You can do this by just telling them, “That sounds very painful. I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
Instead of assuming you understand them, ask questions to show that your concern and empathy are sincere. Body language is an important part of this—never underestimate the power of a gentle hand on a shoulder. It’s common for it to take several attempts before your friend will open up—keep trying without being pushy. Keep the phone calls coming, and don’t ease off if they are distant or despondent.
There may come a time that your listening ear is not enough, and you should then gently open up a dialogue about seeking professional help. Many people, especially baby boomers, feel negatively towards psychiatry as if it’s something only for the mentally weak or psychotic. Fifty percent of Kentucky residents know someone who is living with depression, and sharing this information can make your loved one feel less alone. If you’re seeking services in psychiatry Kentucky is not shorthanded in that department. Indicating this is one way to get the person you’re caring for thinking about professional guidance. Remember to never take a position on medication, as that type of thing should be left to the professionals.
Those who suffer from depression will often lose interest in things they once loved. Isolating themselves will become the norm, and you will begin to hear from them less and less. Encouraging them to continue to engage in social activities and their hobbies are essential in remaining healthy and active. Gently remind them of this without being authoritative. Steer clear of any domineering language that might come off as judgment or belittling. This will only make them recede further into the shadows.
Another sign that your family or friend is suffering from depression is when menial tasks such as laundry or grocery shopping become overwhelming. Make a friendly offer to help by calling to ask if they’d like you to bring a few groceries over so you can cook together. This will give you a chance to connect and chat while completing tasks together, both of which can go a very long way for someone who is feeling down.
Depression frequently causes feelings of loneliness. In spite of this, individuals with depression are likely to become withdrawn and reclusive instead of reaching out to friends or family. Calling, texting, or paying a visit to their home just to say hello or tell them you’re thinking of them is the best way to show your presence in their life. It lets them know that they have people in their corner who also need them. Remember to always keep invitations loose with no pressure. Canceling plans can lead to guilt and fewer invitations, ultimately defeating their purpose.
Understanding the full scope of depression, how it manifests itself, how it impacts the individual, and how it can even affect you is your greatest tool when looking after someone with depression. Learning about it will help you understand why they do (or don’t do) the things they do, which will cause you to be more empathetic of their feelings. An added perspective will help you see things more clearly and as a result, be a better supporter.
By offering a non-judgmental, empathetic ear, you can be of more service to the ones you love than through any other act. Always do what you can with unconditional love and without expectation. Remember to always get a licensed professional involved if you think your loved one has become a danger to themselves.