Millions of people around the world suffer from depression. Depression is defined as a mental health disorder characterized by persistent sadness or loss of interest. It negatively affects the way people think, act, and feel to the point that it disrupts their day-to-day life.
If someone close to you like a friend or a family member is depressed, it is normal to feel helpless at times. Maybe you want to show your loved one that you are supportive and you want to help them overcome their depression but you don’t have any idea how to start. It can be quite challenging especially if you’ve never experienced the same situation before. If you are not using the correct approach, you might even be worsening the situation instead of providing support.
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Offering support to someone who is depressed can also be difficult or awkward. Often times, people who are depressed don’t vocalize that they need help or they are embarrassed to ask for help because they are scared of being judged. It is then important to be thoughtful about how you open the conversation so you won’t seem patronizing. Here are some ways on how you can support someone undergoing depression.
Acknowledge their feelings
“You’ll get over it”
“Snap out of it”
“It’s all in your head”
When someone is depressed, these are just some of the common things people say. There is a misconception that saying these things will somehow help the person get over the depression, however, this can give the opposite effect. When people are depressed, minimizing or ignoring what they feel can deepen the depression. They might think that nobody understands them and they will start to question their own feelings which can result in a lack of self-esteem and confidence.
It is then very important to acknowledge what your loved ones are feeling. Saying things such as “I understand why you feel that way” or “I am sorry that you feel that way” are better alternatives because these shows that you are empathetic to how they are feeling.
Listen without judgment
If you’re loved one decides to speak to you about the situation, offer a listening ear. There will be situations when you might not exactly agree with what your loved one is feeling or saying. Try to avoid saying things outright that may invalidate what they are feeling such as “You’re wrong” or “That’s not how it is”. Instead offer words of encouragement such as “I love you” or “I am here for you”. Avoid giving advice unless they ask you for it because not everyone who needs to talk wants to necessarily hear your opinion. Sometimes, all they need is someone to listen to them while they voice out their thoughts and feelings.
Be present for them
Not everyone can verbally express how they feel. Some people prefer to stay quiet or cry. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should just leave them alone. Being physically present for them can mean a lot, without forcing them to speak or pushing them to do things with you. Sitting with them, holding their hand, or just staying with them is a simple way to show them your support.
If you cannot be physically present, stay in touch through phone calls and messages. Sending a simple message to check on your loved one will show that you are thinking about them and that you care about them. Make an effort to stay in touch especially if you haven’t seen them for a long time or you live far away.
Make them feel included
A lot of times, people who are depressed don’t have the energy or motivation to go out and socialize. They isolate themselves and fail to attend gatherings, parties, and family events. Even if your loved ones keep on declining or not attending, be patient with them. Don’t give up by not inviting them anymore because when the invites start to decline, they might feel that they have been forgotten. On the other hand, don’t obligate them or make them feel guilty that they did not attend or accept your invitation. Make it clear that you understand if they cannot make it. Remember that every person has a different timeline when they’ll be ready to socialize again.
Sometimes words are not enough to show a depressed loved one that you care for them. You have to support them through thoughtful gestures. You can cook them their favorite meal, give them a hug, or take them out to do things with them that will make them happy. You can also ask them what they like and what they would prefer to do instead of forcing them to do stuff.
If your loved one is suffering from depression, don’t go with them if they want to drink alcohol or take drugs to forget about their misery. Instead, you can encourage them to do positive activities that you know they will enjoy like watching a movie, going to a comedy club, or seeing their favorite musicians in concert. You can even offer to travel with them if possible.
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