Things like a global pandemic really have a way of triggering our mental health. Uncertainty about the future, financial insecurity, and loneliness are just a few current issues that can increase things like stress, anxiety, and depression.
If you’re in the group that feels guilty because life is actually pretty good for you right now, it’s okay! One way you can give back is by supporting others who are having a hard time right now. That’s why I’m giving you 9 proven ways to support someone with depression.
Recognize that depression is an illness. Just like a cold or flu, a person cannot simply choose to “get over” depression. Also like other illnesses, depression can affect anyone. A person can develop depression even if they seem to have a good life, with little to be upset about. Depression isn’t a result of a lack of faith, or because someone is just plain “lazy.” It’s an illness. So choose kindness.
Make a point to reach out. Many people with depression will isolate themselves, often falling out of touch with friends and family. You can’t make someone accept help, but you can keep modes of communication open. Check in regularly, invite them to talk, send a text, and reemphasize your support.
Just listening can help. You don’t have to fix your loved one’s problems or convince them that their negative feelings are wrong. Even if you disagree with some of their thoughts or feelings, respect and acknowledge that these experiences are real to them. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth, so listen more than you speak.
Be supportive of healthy habits. Exercise, healthy sleep habits, meditation, and socializing all contribute to mental health, and help combat depression. Support these activities by giving encouragement, offering to accompany your loved one, or providing positive feedback.
Encourage professional help. Mental health counseling and medication are effective in treating depression. If your loved one is unsure where to start, offer to help them find the right provider, such as a physician, mental health counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Take it a step further by offering to drive them to the doctor’s office.
Connect your loved one with social support. In addition to professional help, your loved one may benefit from other sources of support. These could include community organizations, religious groups, or mental health support groups. You can even join the Catching Your Breath Facebook group for free (click here).
Take any mention of suicide seriously. Symptoms of depression include intense sadness, despair, and thoughts of suicide. If you feel that someone is in danger, don’t hesitate to call 911, take them to an emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support available 24/7. Thoughts or threats of suicide are never “to get attention” - that’s a terrible myth. As humans, we are born with an innate desire to live, so anyone who is talking about trying to end their life needs immediate professional help. What they don’t need is shame, judgment, or dismissiveness.
Always take any threat of suicide seriously. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support available 24/7.
Make time for self-care. Supporting someone with depression can be frustrating, tiring, and emotionally draining. It’s okay to take a break just for you. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, eating properly, exercising, and taking time to relax.
If you could use some accountability on practicing self-care, sign up for a Soul Care Strategy Session with me today and save 25% off your first session, using the discount code WELCOME at checkout (here’s the link).
You are not responsible for curing your loved one. Your love and support are valuable, but ultimately, you cannot make them better. It is unfair to yourself to take responsibility for another person’s depression, or their recovery. I know this one is particularly difficult for the helpers, but it’s true. Give yourself permission to take the cape or cross off your back.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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