How to Care for Your Family & Friends with Depression

How to Care for Your Family & Friends with DepressionMay is Mental Health Awareness Month, and now more than ever, people are suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses. One of the most commonly diagnosed is depression. Seeing a loved one struggling with depression is heart-wrenching in its own right, but it’s even more so when you don’t know what to do to help that family member or friend. While every person’s situation and personality are different, anyone can do a few things to help a loved one move towards healing and recovery. 

Learn About Depression & Its Symptoms

According to the American Psychiatric Association, warning signs include dramatic changes in appetite and sleep, withdrawal from social interaction, unusual problems functioning at school, work, or social activities, and being less interested/excited in things and activities they previously enjoyed. While these symptoms are not a surefire diagnosis, it is essential to have the affected loved one undergo an evaluation from a medical professional to figure out what’s going on.

Start the Conversation About What They’re Going Through

Often, the people struggling with depression don’t want anyone to know about it. It’s complicated, difficult, and somewhat embarrassing for the person suffering. But this step is one of the most important. Not only does it help the person to start taking the necessary steps toward healing, but it also shows them that you care for them, are concerned about them, and are willing to listen to what they have to say. And you don’t have to say much. Listening to the person and being there for them makes a huge difference. It shows you’re willing to hear them out and not be judgmental of what they are thinking and feeling. 

Suggest Getting Help from a Medical Professional

 Depression is a medical condition like diabetes, hypertension, and iron deficiency, and just like those conditions, when you start having problems, you see a doctor. Let them know that they need to see a medical doctor/physician or see a mental health provider like a psychologist or a licensed counselor. To help ease their worries and anxiety about going, offer to help them come up with a list of questions to ask. You can also offer to go along with them, attend a therapy session, set up appointments, and check in on them regularly. 

*If the loved one you know has a mental illness that is severe or life-threatening, contact a hospital or emergency medical services immediately.

Be a Solid Support for Them and Bring in Our People to Help Too

 While having one person supporting the individual suffering is highly beneficial, it’s crucial to remember that you cannot do it alone. While your loved one may want to keep everything a secret because they are embarrassed, it isn’t healthy or fair to you to have all that pressure. A small circle of other family members and/or friends allows you to share the responsibility and show the person suffering how much they are loved. Another person can be there or help in a way you cannot and vice versa. 

Suggest Getting Help from a Medical Professional

 Like any other medical condition, recovering from depression is going to be a journey. The most apparent symptoms usually improve with treatment, but that doesn’t mean the problem’s completely gone away. Healing can be a slow process, and there will be setbacks from time to time. There will be good days and bad days, and it’s crucial for both you and your loved one to keep that in mind. Frustration and impatience during the process are likely. However, do not let those negative emotions overcome the progress that’s already been made. Depression is a serious medical condition, but with the support of family, friends, and medical professionals, people can recover and live happy, fulfilling lives. 

Depression Resources: 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

American Psychiatric Association

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