Depression, a word often tossed around in daily conversation, is far more than a fleeting bout of sadness or a reaction to a minor setback. It’s a storm of overwhelming despair that can sweep through every aspect of a person’s life.
Depression is a grave mental health disorder that, as per the World Health Organization, impacts an estimated 5% of adults globally. When someone is adrift in the waves of depression, the support of loved ones serves as a beacon of hope. It’s not just about helping them feel better; it’s about potentially saving lives.
Depression is like an iceberg. What’s visible on the surface barely scratches the depths of what lies beneath. Clinically, it’s characterized by a host of symptoms that last for at least two weeks and can include intense feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating.
It’s waking up and feeling as though a ton-weight has been anchored to your chest. It’s looking at a beautiful sunrise and feeling nothing, or being surrounded by loved ones and feeling utterly alone.
Common Symptoms And Misconceptions
There are a plethora of symptoms associated with depression, and it’s essential to recognize that they may vary among individuals. For instance, while some may experience insomnia, others might find themselves sleeping excessively. Weight changes, fatigue, irritability, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide are also common.
You might have heard someone say, ‘Can’t you just snap out of it?’ or ‘Everyone gets sad sometimes.’ Such statements are not only misinformed but can be deeply damaging. Depression is not a choice or a sign of weakness. It can be a result of a complex interplay of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Another common myth is that only adults can experience depression. However, children and adolescents are far from immune. It is a pervasive and relentless shadow that does not discriminate.
Supporting a loved one during depression begins with understanding. With the insight that depression is not a monolith and that the person grappling with it is fighting an inner battle, one can extend a hand with empathy, compassion, and respect.
The 5 Ways To Support A Loved One During Depression
Here are five lifelines you can extend to care for individuals suffering from depression and anxiety:
1. Be There for Them
Imagine for a moment you are in their shoes—a cacophony of negative thoughts bouncing around your mind. What would you need? Not advice, not judgment, but presence. Join them for coffee or a walk in the park. Sit beside them in silence if words are too heavy to carry. Create an atmosphere where they feel unburdened by the fear of judgment, allowing them to be raw and authentic in their expression.
Active listening is an art. It’s being attuned to not just what is being said, but also to the unspoken emotions. Often, individuals with depression are not seeking solutions to their problems but a vent to release their pent-up emotions. When your loved one speaks, listen without interrupting. Offer a shoulder to cry on, and sometimes that can be more healing than any words could ever be.
2. Encourage Professional Help
Imagine if someone were experiencing relentless physical pain; you’d suggest they see a doctor, right? The pains of the mind should be no different. One of the most empowering steps you can take is to help your loved one find a therapist or psychiatrist.
Research local mental health professionals or consult a family doctor for recommendations. Offer to drive them to appointments or simply check in after sessions to see how they are doing. Your unwavering support might just be the anchor they need to keep them grounded as they navigate these uncharted waters.
3. Educate Yourself
To truly support someone with depression, you must first understand what they’re facing. Immerse yourself in books, documentaries, and articles about depression. Listen to podcasts and watch educational videos.
There are diverse treatments and avenues of recovery for depression, each tailored to the individual’s needs and situation. This is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes are among the most common. Explore alternative treatments such as art therapy, animal-assisted therapy, or mindfulness.
4. Be Patient
Understand that your loved one may have good days and bad days. There might be false starts or setbacks in their treatment. Stand by them through these ebbs and flows with unwavering patience, recognizing that healing is not linear.
How often have you heard someone say, ‘Time heals all wounds?’ Though well-intentioned, pushing someone with depression to ‘snap out of it’ is akin to expecting a broken bone to mend overnight. It’s not only unrealistic but can be detrimental to their mental health. Encourage progress, but avoid setting timelines or making them feel pressured to ‘get over it.’
5. Help Them Maintain A Routine
Sleep and nutrition are to humans what sunlight and water are to plants. They are fundamental. Encourage your loved one to maintain regular sleep patterns and eat balanced meals. Be creative—perhaps cook a meal together or establish a nightly phone call to say goodnight.
Engaging in hobbies and activities can offer similar therapeutic benefits for those with depression. Encourage your loved one to paint, write, garden, or do any activity that once brought them joy. If they’re hesitant, offer to partake in these activities alongside them. It’s through these seemingly small steps that the spark of life can begin to flicker again in the shadows of depression.
Supporting a loved one through the murky waters of depression is an odyssey, not a sprint. With every compassionate word, patient silence, and understanding embrace, you are building bridges across the chasms of despair.
By educating yourself, exercising patience, helping them maintain a routine, and standing beside them as they seek professional help, you become a lighthouse guiding them back to the shores of hope.