Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world, with over 264 million people suffering from depression. Here at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Hadi Estakhri offers customized treatments to relieve depression symptoms.
Depression profoundly impacts anyone who has it, but it also affects that person’s loved ones. That’s why we created this guide: to help you support those around you who have depression. Read on to explore tips and strategies for supporting a loved one with depression.
1. Learn as much as you can about depression
One of the most important things you can do to support a friend or family member with depression is to learn more about the mental disorder. Depression is common, and it’s often characterized by sadness. However, there are many additional symptoms too. Common symptoms of depression include:
- Intense sadness
- Eating changes (eating more or less)
- Sleeping changes (sleeping more or less)
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulty focusing on work or school
- Loss of interest in favorite hobbies
- Thoughts (or talk) about suicide and/or death
One of the most important things to remember is that depression symptoms can vary from person to person. Regardless of which symptoms your loved one experiences, they are usually severe enough to cause noticeable interferences with daily activities. This includes school, work, personal relationships, and social engagements. If you suspect depression in your child, you might notice that he or she feels generally unhappy, irritable, or even cranky. Remember, at any age, sadness isn’t the only symptom.
You can also spend time learning how depression is treated. Medication, lifestyle changes (like practicing self-care, exercising, and eating nutrient-dense foods), and therapy go a long way in helping those with depression feel better.
2. Encourage treatment
It’s not always easy to speak up and ask for help. Some people might feel embarrassed and some might feel like it’s a sign of weakness if they can’t overcome depression on their own. You can support a loved one by gently encouraging treatment. Not sure where to start? Here are a few examples of how you can encourage treatment for your loved one:
- Remind them asking for help is a sign of strength
- Offer to help by setting up appointments, attending any appointments with them (if they want), driving them to or from appointments, or attending family therapy
- Express a willingness to help by helping them prepare a list of any questions they have about depression itself or treatment options
You can also remind them depression is common and treatable.
3. Learn what to say (and what not to say)
Once you learn more about depression, its symptoms, and the importance of treatment, you can further support your loved ones by learning what to say and what not to say. For example, telling someone to “snap out of it” might come from a well-meaning place, but it doesn’t provide solid guidance. Other phrases to avoid include:
- You don’t look that sad
- It could be worse
- It can’t be that bad
- You don’t look depressed
Instead, try these phrases:
- How can I help you?
- What can I do to support you?
- I’m here to listen if you’d like to talk.
- Can I make a meal for you?
- How are you managing?
- I may not know how you feel, but I’m here for you. You’re not alone.
- You’re important to me.
- This sounds hard. What can I do to help you today?
You may find that the most helpful thing you can do is simply listen to your loved one and be present in the moment.
4. Create a low-stress schedule or routine
Routines can be particularly helpful for those with mental disorders, and that includes depression. Research shows that routines (especially bedtime routines) may help a loved one with depression feel more in control. You can help create a low-stress schedule and routine by offering to make a schedule for meals (and even help make some meals). You can also create a schedule or reminder list for medication, physical activity, and bedtime.
5. Continue to make plans together
Continue to make plans with your loved ones and invite them to participate. Because depression can cause a loss of interest, your loved one might decline the invite. Don’t try to force them to join you, but let them know the offer still stands if they change their mind. Examples of outings to suggest include a walk around the block, going to the movies, working on one of their favorite hobbies, or going to get a coffee together.
6. Know the warning signs of suicide
Warning signs of suicide include talking about suicide and death, increased withdrawal, giving away personal belongings, saying “goodbyes” to friends and family, acting reckless, increased substance abuse, anxiety, and irritability.
If a loved one is contemplating suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides free, confidential support 24/7.
To make an appointment, simply request an appointment via our website. You can also call our Newport Beach, California office at 949-258-7135 to request your appointment today.