Do You Love Someone With Depression? Here’s What You Need to Know
Approximately 7.1 percent of the adults in the United States have experienced at least one episode of clinical depression. In fact, depression is so widespread that it is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. With statistics like these, it’s likely that you or someone you know will experience depression at some point.
If you’ve never been through a depressive episode before, it can be especially difficult to know how best to support a friend or loved one who lives with the condition. While every person with depression is unique and lives with their own struggles, there are some basic guidelines for helping someone with depression. In general, these dos and don’ts can help you help someone you know when they are living through a depressive episode.
Do: Encourage and Normalize Mental Health Care
Clinically-backed interventions such as therapy and antidepressants can help your loved ones feel better. If your loved one has a severe case of depression, these interventions may even save their life. You can encourage your loved one to seek help by:
- Offering to drive them to and from appointments
- Speaking up about your own experiences with therapy or psychiatry
- Offering to care for children during appointments
- Reassuring them that seeking help is the right course of action
Simply normalizing mental health care in the way you talk about mental health may help someone who is struggling in silence.
Don’t: Invalidate Their Feelings
Invalidating a person’s feelings involves anything that dismisses or denies the emotions that someone else experiences. Even when you mean well, you can end up invalidating someone’s emotions by saying things like, “But there’s so much to be happy about!” or “It could be a lot worse.”
You do not have to understand or agree with a person’s feelings in order to validate them. If you love someone who lives with depression, give them space for their emotions to exist, even if you don’t totally get it.
Do: Provide Comfort and Support
Mental health providers are not the only people who can help people with depression. In fact, support from friends and family can be key to a person’s recovery. Consider offering support by:
- Making future plans and sticking to them
- Providing a listening ear
- Listening without judgment
- Engaging in religious or spiritual activities with them, if they desire
- Helping with everyday activities like cooking meals
- Encouraging them to stick with their treatment plan
Don’t: Ignore Suicidal Thoughts
Sadly, depression can be a fatal condition for some people. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The latest statistics show that 48,344 people in the country died by suicide in one year and another 1.4 million people attempted suicide.
If you have any suspicion that your loved one may be thinking about suicide, gently bring the topic up with them. Don’t worry about “planting the idea,” in their head. It’s much more dangerous to ignore it.
If your loved one expresses any thoughts of suicide, be sure to get help immediately. A few important steps can save their life:
- Encourage your loved one to reach out to their mental health care provider
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Keep the person in a safe, monitored environment
- Call emergency services (911) if the person is in immediate danger
Do: Seek Help for Yourself, If Needed
Depending on your relationship with the person with depression, you may find yourself in need of support as well. For example, if you are the parent or caretaker, you could get burnout. Talking to a therapist about your experience can help you get the weight off your chest. Not only does this help you feel happier, but it can make you more effective at supporting your loved one.