It’s so very hard watching someone you care about struggle with depression.
You feel powerless to do anything about it. After all, if you could, you would brush away their depression so that they would no longer struggle.
However, that’s not realistic. But there is a more practical solution.
You can be part of their support system so that they get the help they need. This doesn’t require any specific skills. In fact, you already have everything you need to help.
Here are three ways that you can support a loved one who has depression.
1. Listen to Your Loved One
First, listen to your loved one. Allow them the space to talk freely about what they are experiencing. This is actually very important.
Listening sends the message that someone wants to understand what is happening to them. Why is that important? Because people who struggle with depression often believe that nobody truly understands them. Or others just don’t “get” it.
That leads to your loved one retreating even further inward. They cut off others who could help because they feel so isolated. When listening to your loved one, practice active listening. Let them speak, then summarize back what you have heard. This further reinforces that you are not only listening but understanding.
2. Show Empathy
Another way that you can support your loved one struggling with depression is by demonstrating empathy. Empathy is where you can relate to your loved one. However, don’t worry about not being able to relate precisely to your loved one.
You might not have the exact life experience that they have had. However, you can connect bigger-picture issues from what they are going through to your own life. For example:
It’s important to note that empathy is not pity. With pity, you want to change the circumstances of what is happening, so that your loved one no longer feels depressed. That is neither realistic nor healthy. You can’t change those circumstances.
Really, it’s up to your loved one to make positive changes in their own life.
3. Be Involved
You can also be a resource for your loved one by staying involved in their life. For example:
- Schedule a weekly get-together to chat over coffee
- Do something fun and active together, such as playing sports or hiking
- Invite them to activities with others so that they stay connected to people
At some point, your loved one may decline these offers. That makes sense if they are particularly struggling with depression. However, don’t give up. Continue to offer to spend time with them. Remind them that your door is always open and you are there to listen.
Avoid These Two Things
When you are supporting your loved one, it’s important to avoid these two things.
Judgment: It can be frustrating and even scary seeing your loved one struggle with depression. As tempting as it might be, do your best to avoid passing judgment. Instead, try to understand why the depression is happening.
Enabling: People with depression often also have trouble with substance abuse. They attempt to cope by self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs. Try to avoid enabling these kinds of behaviors.
If you both spend time together, make sure that it is not while having a few drinks or using drugs. In the long run, they don’t help with resolving depression.
People who have depression need compassionate, caring, and understanding people in their lives. You can help fill this role as one of many supports for your loved one.
Another important support is therapy for your friend or family member. However, if you have trouble coping with the emotional pain of or loved one, or need some support yourself, reach out to us, 256-686-9195, and find out today how depression therapy can help.