Learning how to help a loved one with depression has never been more important.
Recent research shows that rates of depression more than tripled in the United States, mainly due to the ongoing ramifications of the global pandemic. Researchers also report that those affected most were already at increased risk.
If you have a loved one who seems to be grappling with mental health issues, how can you establish whether they have a diagnosable mental health condition?
How Can You Tell if Someone is Suffering from Depression?
If your loved one exhibits several of the following signs, they could be suffering from more than a case of the blues:
- Pronounced weight loss or weight gain
- Expressions of helplessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Flagging energy levels
- Angry or irritable outbursts
- Reckless behaviors
- Inability to concentrate
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Disrupted sleep patterns
None of the above symptoms automatically means your loved one has major depressive disorder (the clinical descriptor for depression). Having said that, if you notice your loved one manifesting a cluster of these symptoms, it is worth opening a dialogue about mental health.
Helping a Loved One with Depression
Everyone has a different experience of depression, but this common mental health disorder is typically disruptive in many areas of life. If you are interested in learning how to help a loved one with depression, here are some actionable steps to help them get back on track.
- Learn as much as you can about mental health and major depressive disorder
- Make sure to prioritize your self-care
- Don’t feel like you need to do everything for your loved one: set and maintain boundaries
- Voice your concerns with your friend or family member
- Help your loved one in their daily routine
- Encourage your loved one to engage in meaningful activities
- Support your loved ones and encourage them to explore treatment for depression
- Monitor for signs that treatment is working or not working
1) Learn as much as you can about mental health and major depressive disorder
Before anything, learn as much as you can about depression, its causes, and how it can be effectively treated. This is the first vital step in figuring out how to help a loved one with depression.
NIH (the National Institute of Mental Health) has a wide variety of resources on all aspects of depression. You can also find plenty of information about mental health disorders via the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) right here.
Once you have a firm grasp on the mechanics of mental health, you should focus on yourself first before trying to help a loved one in need.
2) Make sure to prioritize your self-care
If a loved one is suffering from depression, it can take a heavy emotional toll on those around them.
Before committing to help a friend or family member with depression, ensure you are taking care of yourself properly in the following areas
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
- Exercising regularly.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Take time to relax and recharge.
- Connecting with loved ones.
With your own house in order, it’s time to start helping your loved one – remember, though, this does not need to be a zero-sum game.
3) Don’t feel like you need to do everything for your loved one: set and maintain boundaries
You should not feel as if helping someone living with depression means you need to drop everything and support them at all times.
Pouring too much energy into helping someone else is likely to leave you feeling burned out or frustrated, so strike a balance.
If you feel like you should be doing more to help them, remember that you should be encouraging your loved ones to do as much as possible for themselves.
Don’t feel bad about setting boundaries either. If your professional life is too busy to permit regular intrusions during the day, tell your friend you are only available in emergencies during the day, but readily available during the evenings and weekends.
If possible, involve other friends and family members, helping your loved one with depression to build a more robust social support network.
4) Voice your concerns with your friend or family member
When discovering how to help a loved one with depression, articulate your concerns about noticing potential signs of depression, leave conflict and judgment aside.
An effective way to get your loved one to talk is to start by sharing some changes you have observed in their behavior with specific examples. Do not describe these changes critically or emotionally. Instead, objectively outline what you have witnessed neutrally.
Crucially, you should then allow your loved ones the time to process this information and to share their thoughts on the issue.
Don’t suggest that your loved one “snaps out of it” – you should know from your initial research that depression is a clinical mood disorder and not a spell of the blues your loved one can snap out of. It is also usually unhelpful to ask your loved one to look at all the good in their lives, and equally unproductive to suggest your loved one has no legitimate reason to feel sad.
While the concept of depression treatment may organically arise during this initial conversation with your loved one, you should not press this issue right away. Instead, take steps to help your struggling friend or family member with their daily routine.
5) Help your loved one in their daily routine
The degree to which depression impacts daily functioning varies from person to person.
If you notice your loved one is having problems with laundry, shopping, cooking, or cleaning, give them some assistance. If they are not getting enough exercise or social connection, suggest you both take a walk around the block.
Establishing a healthy routine is key for your friend or family member with depression. If you can help them gradually initiate and implement positive changes like exercise, your loved one could notice an immediate improvement in mood.
6) Encourage your loved one to engage in meaningful activities
One proven form of depression treatment is behavioral activation. This concept involves engaging in personally meaningful activities.
Rather than prodding a loved one with depression to take part in activities that don’t appeal to them – socializing in large groups, for instance – switch the focus to those activities your loved one enjoys. From joining a small fitness class to volunteering, explore what makes your loved ones happy and encourage them to do more of it.
7) Support your loved one and encourage them to explore treatment for depression
Often, people with depression do not recognize the signs of depression, and sometimes people will not acknowledge feelings of depression.
Fortunately, depression is treatable, even if it is not curable. Consider these steps to connect your loved one with the professional help they need:
- Explain to your loved one that depression is a treatable medical condition. Depression is not a character flaw, and it’s not a sign of weakness either.
- In most cases, depression responds favorably to treatment.
- Suggest to your loved one that they seek help from a doctor, counselor, or psychologist.
- Prepare some initial questions for your loved ones to discuss in their initial appointment.
- Express your desire and willingness to help with scheduling appointments.
- Offer to attend any required family therapy sessions with your loved one.
- Contact a doctor or emergency medical services if you feel your friend or family member is in life-threatening danger.
Overcome Depression at The District
Here at The District, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of depression and other mental health disorders.
After learning how to help a loved one with depression, it is important to help them get treatment. If your loved one needs more time commitment than a traditional outpatient program (OP) provides, we also offer IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). With these more intensive programs, your loved one can get the support and structure of residential treatment without the restrictions or the cost.
We also provide dual diagnosis treatment for all those with co-occurring disorders (a mental health disorder like depression with a co-occurring alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder).
Encouraging your loved one to engage with depression treatment at The District could restore their daily functioning and their zest for life. Make this happen by contacting admissions today at 844-287-8506.