Know someone you'd describe as sad, down, blue, or depressed? It's hard to see a loved one suffer with depression. Words of encouragement or a shoulder to cry on often don't seem to do any good and you feel helpless to know how to cheer up your loved one. But you don’t have to give up hope altogether.
Clinical depression is a medical condition you're likely not qualified to treat, but there are ways you can come alongside a loved one in his or her recovery. Here are a few of them.
There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths surrounding depression. Before you make your own opinions, do your homework by educating yourself about this common mental disorder. Learn the different types of depression; the various causes, symptoms, complications, and consequences; and understand the best methods of treatment.
Once you know what you're dealing with, you'll be more effective in your efforts to help.
All the cards, flowers, sleep, and funny movies in the world sometimes aren't enough. When nothing seems to help, it may be time for professional counseling and medical care. At times like this, what your loved one needs from you is your support, patience, and love.
Poke around online and ask trusted friends or your doctor for referrals for a psychiatrist or counselor. There's no one treatment that works for everyone, so work with a doctor to ensure proper care. Early intervention works best, so encourage therapy to loved ones as soon as you see the need arise. In some cases you may need to do a little convincing. Offer to take your loved one to therapy sessions or to remind him or her to take medications prescribed to battle depression.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is be there. Sit together in a quiet room, offer a shoulder to cry on, and give reassurance. If a depressed person wants to talk about feelings, be available to listen. Let the depressed person know he or she isn’t alone. Call her up to check in, extend invitations to hang out with you, or stop by to visit. Rather than offer advice, ask what you can do to help.
Minimizing the situation, blaming it on self-pity, or believing it's all in someone’s head isn't going to help someone who's clinically depressed. Remember—someone suffering from depression didn't choose to feel this way. Unless you've been there yourself, you don't know what a depressed person is going through, so avoid judgmental comments. Remain patient and assure your loved one you'll be by his or her side no matter what.
A depressed person may not want to get out of bed in the morning and may no longer enjoy the things that once brought pleasure. One way you can help is to encourage baby steps toward reaching small goals. Praise each effort, reward progress, and maintain healthy routines. Make sure someone who's depressed gets enough sleep (but not too much), eats a well-balanced diet, and is physically active—three essentials of relieving depression.
There's always hope. Your loved one may not feel it, but you can. Even the most severe cases depression can be successfully treated, so hold fast to hope and know a brighter day is on the way.