Depression is an incredibly prevalent mental health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 1 in 20 Americans experience moderate or severe depression at some point during their lives. It can occur at any age, affecting people of all races and economic levels. This article will provide you with advice on helping a friend or loved one who is suffering from depression. But before we discuss specific techniques, it’s important for you to understand a few common symptoms of this horrible affliction first.
Depression affects a person in many ways beyond feeling sad. A person with depression may lose interest in activities they used to love. They may also experience a loss in appetite or reduction in activity levels. Fatigue and thoughts of guilt and self-doubt are also common symptoms of depression. If these feelings start to have a drastic negative effect on one’s everyday activities, a clinical diagnosis and professional help may be necessary.
How Not to Help Someone with Depression
You can’t defeat depression by simply “getting over” feelings of sadness. Whether it’s your child, spouse, or friend, telling someone who seems down or irritable to snap out of it is one thing you should definitely avoid doing. It will just compound their feelings of guilt and despair.
It’s essential for you to understand that the emotional responses caused by depression don’t reflect your loved one’s real feelings towards you. Anger and rejection are coping mechanisms of someone in pain. To help someone with depression means to be patient and strong. Make no mistake, depression is a complex mental illness, but it can be treated with proper care and support.
Helping Someone Who Is Depressed
To help someone cope with depression, it’s essential to understand their mindset first. Remember, by the time you’ve noticed outward symptoms, that person has been living with these negative feelings for some time. These thought patterns may have skewed how they view life and their surroundings. A simple call to action usually isn’t enough to convince them to change or seek help.
A person who is depressed may feel a plethora of emotions, including feelings of irritability, guilt, and worthlessness. They may have trouble staying in the moment due to fatigue and lack of concentration. In the most severe cases, victims of depression may experience darker thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Learning how your depressed loved one views the world can give you a better understanding of how they feel and how you might be able to help them manage these negative thoughts and emotions.
Parents and Children
One of the best ways a parent can help a child with depression is to pay attention. Look for signs of irritability and other uncharacteristic behaviors that are strong indicators of a child in emotional distress. Many children go through traumatic times throughout their young lives that may leave them unable to cope. A young person’s leap into adolescence and independence can also be incredibly trying on their emotional well-being.
A strong warning sign of depression in children is withdrawal from friends. A child with depression may experience anger, irritability, and other behavioral problems as well. Be on the lookout for these issues whenever you spend time with your child. Be sure to consult with your child’s teachers from time to time too. They may notice a problematic behavior that your child is attempting to hide from you.
A child with depression will benefit from the supportive environment that counseling and therapy can provide. Types of therapy like play and family counseling can help ensure that everyone learns how to cope while giving your child an opportunity to talk about their problems in a safe environment. You can help foster this feeling of safety and comfort with family routines.
A child with depression needs the stability of a good home. As a parent, you can set an example of unconditional love and positive thinking. And don’t forget to get help for yourself if you need it. Seek out the advice of a therapist or counselor to help you cope with your child’s condition and to learn the best way to support them through their struggles.
Helping Your Depressed Partner
Like your children, you’ll probably notice that something is wrong long before your partner admits that they feel depressed. After all, you know them better than most, so the symptoms will be evident. You may see things like substance abuse or withdrawal. For both men and women, pride and embarrassment can form significant barriers to communication.
Try to persuade your partner to seek help if they’re reluctant to talk through their problems with you personally. Some people may feel more comfortable speaking to a third party (or a member of a specific gender) when talking about issues that may affect your relationship. If this is the route that your partner chooses to take, be sure to support their therapy while making it evident you are available whenever they need to talk.
One of the most critical things you can do for a depressed significant other is to listen to them. That means allowing your partner to open up about his or her feelings without judgment. A person with depression often has feelings of worthlessness. Therefore, it’s essential not to criticize or nag at them. You may feel like your chiding is helping, but it will usually just backfire and cause your partner to withdraw even further from you.
You can also help your partner by educating yourself about depression. This is essential because a person with this condition may not make the best choices. The more you know about depression, the more you can support them. That also means being part of your significant other’s recovery. The encouragement you can provide will be invaluable for your partner and your relationship.
Reaching Out to a Depressed Friend
Much of the advice we give on helping a partner with depression applies to reaching out to a friend. Listening can help your friend vent their issues and put them in perspective. Often, a person’s distorted view of life fuels their depression. You can be the voice of reason that helps them see things in the right light.
You can also encourage your friend to get help if he or she is having problems coping. A person with depression may have trouble concentrating and focusing on making their life better. Fortunately, you can point them on the road to recovery if they’ve lost their way. Your friend is likely to respect and act on your advice, especially if the two of you have a close relationship.
Friends look out for their pals. When you reach out and listen, you are giving your friend one of the most precious gifts ever. It’s important to provide them with an outlet for their feelings, whether it’s a journal, a therapist, or just weekly conversations with you. As with your partner, help your friend through these hard times by providing kindness and help without judgement or criticism.
Lastly, you can help your friend find hope and new meaning in their world by planning a day out together. A break from the reminders of depression may be exactly what your friend needs, and it will probably help you feel better too. While you may wish you could make everything right, it’s important to be supportive without taking on too much of the burden. Your friend needs to be responsible for their own progress towards recovery.
Seeing a loved one fighting with depression is both a painful and challenging experience. But it’s also an opportunity for the two of you to form stronger bonds of understanding. Depression is a heavy burden, but it’s much easier to carry when you have help. And with the love and support of people like you, your loved one can and will overcome their mental illness.
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