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Supporting a Loved One through Depression

It’s heartbreaking to watch a loved one suffer. You may feel helpless, frustrated and not know what to do to help them through it. Depression is an insidious disease that carries far too much stigma and judgment. Following you will find information and resources to help you support your loved one.

There are several deeply hurting and damaging things one may say to someone dealing with depression:

  • Just snap out of it.
  • Don’t be so dramatic.
  • Why don’t you just get over it already?
  • You have so much going for you, so wake up!
  • Can’t you just be happy?
  • It can’t be all that bad.
  • Just look for the positives.

Educate Yourself

Learning about Depression will help you support your loved one. Educate yourself about the symptoms of depression. Look for local resources and options for support in your community.

Ask

If your loved one is experiencing depression, they are more than likely feeling alone, overwhelmed and quite possibly ashamed. They may not be able to give you a straight answer about what is wrong, or know what support looks like for them. By asking how you can support them you are showing your willingness to support. Be aware, that you may need to ask the questions more than once.

Sample scripts:

  • “I have notice you’re not yourself lately. I am here to listen. How can I help you?”
  • “Is everything ok? I am worried about you and want you to know I am here for you.

Seek Professional Help

Going to a Doctor or calling a crisis line can be a daunting task for people dealing with depression. Having someone accompany and support them may lessen their fears. Encourage your loved one to seek professional support.

Sample scripts:

  • “I’m so grateful you are sharing this with me. Let’s contact your Doctor and make an appointment. I will happily join you in discovering how we can get you the help you need.”
  • “As soon as we hang up, please contact your Doctor and set up an appointment. I’ll call you back in an hour and check with you when it will be. I’m happy to drive you to the appointment and if you’d like I can be present with you.”

Unconditional Love, Acceptance and Compassion

Judgment is one of the major issues people suffering with depression don’t reach out for help. Most people who are dealing with a mental illness will not be open about it in fear of being judged, ridiculed or treated differently. One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved one is your unconditional love, acceptance of their current situation and the compassion they need and deserve.

Practice Active Listening

Allow your loved one to share with you how they are feeling and to speak without being interrupted. Active listening shows them you are fully present and provides a safe space.

  • Listen with full attention and with the intention to support them unconditionally. Remove distractions such as television, radio, phone and computer.
  • Maintain open body language: face the person in a relaxed casual posture. You may also mirror your loved one’s body language – if they are bent over, face in hands you can match their posture. It’s a sympathetic stance and will encourage openness.
  • Maintain gentle eye contact.

Praise – Celebrate Baby Steps

Celebrate positive steps, many of which will seem like baby steps – a shower, personal hygiene, getting out of bed. Feeling seen and recognized can go a long way for someone experiencing depression as they may often feel trapped in a stream of negative emotions. Be sure to point out and recognize any and all positive steps or emotions you notice.

Offer Ongoing Support

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  ~ Leo Buscaglia

Checking in on a regular basis with your loved one is of paramount importance. A simple, “How are you really feeling today?” lets them know your invested in their well-being. You can also regularly check in by asking, “Is there anyway I can support you in this moment?”

Receive Help from Others

As a caregiver, you need support too. Be willing to ask for help and be receptive when others offer you the support you need. You too could benefit from support from a mental health professional or your doctor. Always honour your loved one’s privacy – ask for permission before sharing with anyone else what they are going through.

Team – Create an Emotional Support Team

You are one person. In reality it is impossible for you to be the sole provider of support to your loved one. Instead, encourage your loved one to create an Emotional Health Plan and appoint a support team. This team can consist of trustworthy friends and/or family, mental health professional(s), and family doctor. You can use this example or create your own.

Thank You

As someone who knows firsthand the importance of having a loving support network, thank you for being there for your loved one. This too shall pass, by accepting and providing unconditional support you are helping them heal.  You will also be more aware and knowledgeable on this disease that affects over 350 million people across the world.  

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