Supporting a loved one with depression
Julia Kristina talks about supporting a loved one with depression.
It’s not easy to support someone with depression nor is easy to experience depression. Many try to be supportive of their loved ones with the best of intentions but some of the things we do may not be the best approach. It’s not our fault, as we are all trying our best, but Julia Kristina provides us a few pointers.
1)Saying things we think are helpful but may not be.
“You just need to get out of the house.”
“You just need to look on the bright side.”
In reality, an individual with depression is struggling a lot with this and even the smallest tasks can look insurmountable. Sometimes these statements can cause the individual to feel more helpless or guilty.
Other things that can be said which can be more helpful are:
“I believe in you.”
“I love you.”
“I care for you.”
“I’m here to support you.”
Saying words like this that are genuine and unique will mean a lot to your loved one.
2)Offering advice. This is not always specific to depression as often times people in general may not always be interested in getting unsolicited advice. As humans, a lot of us can find ourselves defaulting to giving advice. Although many of these pieces of advice are indeed helpful for depression, they are only effective when an individual is ready to receive this information and utilize it.
“You need to exercise more.”
“You need to eat healthier.”
However, such statements can also caused depressed individuals to feel invalidated or guilty. This is in much the same way if someone came to us and told us what we should and should not be doing, even if it is coming from a good place.
Other things that can be said instead can be:
“What kinds of things have you found out about that may help?”
“How can I help?”
“Are you ok with maybe exploring some things that may help?”
Some families or friends of loved ones may have to be ready if the individual says they are not exploring anything right now, but reassuring the individual that they are available if their mind changes. They dynamic then changes from that of advice giving to sharing something together
3)When a loved one with depression pushes us away. Do not get frustrated or upset. It is likely to not be personal. Reasons a person with depression may do this is
-they feel overwhelmed
-they feel like a burden to us
-they are self isolating as a manifestation of the depression
-it is coming from the depression and they may not be in the most grounded frame of mind
So what do we do? We respect their wishes and preferences but communicate to them clearly that they are loved and we are here for them when they are ready.
4)Having a loved one with depression can be challenging and frustrating for the people who care about them. There for, it is important to take care of yourselves as well. Keep in mind that you are making active efforts to be supportive but try not to get overwhelmed in your own emotions as well. We need to not feel like we have to fix or find a complete resolution. We cannot fix depression in someone else nor can we assume the full responsibility. We need to commit ourselves to being a support and not as someone who is supposed to fix the issue. Having a grounded frame of mind will be far less exhausting and less frustrating which primes us to be effective supports. Trying to change someone is exhausting and our aim is to not change someone else but to help form an effective team/collaborative effort. It is important to set healthy expectations and be clear to yourself and others about what you can and cannot do.